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Escaped Jaguar Blamed For American's Death in Belize

BELIZE CITY -- A jaguar that escaped from its cage at a Belize animal rescue center during Hurricane Richard has been blamed in the mauling death of a U.S. citizen whose body was found on Tuesday.

The 4-year-old male jaguar named Max escaped when a tree fell on his cage on Sunday, the same day the Category 1 hurricane hit the country's Caribbean coast with howling winds and rain.

Authorities found the victim's body near the animal center on Tuesday. It had bite marks on the forearm and neck, and the man had apparently been attacked the day before and dragged for some distance into the bushes.

Belize's national police force identified the victim as Bruce Cullerton, an American who also held Belizean citizenship.

Kelly McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Belize, confirmed that "a U.S. citizen died from a jaguar attack." McCarthy could not provide any information on the man's hometown or name.

The escaped jaguar had been sighted in the area of the attack near the center, located west of Belize City. Officials of the Belize Forest Department were trying to recapture it using steel-mesh cage traps baited with meat.

The 130-pound jaguar had been taken to rescue and research center two years ago, after a tourist resort which had held the animal as an attraction gave it up after tourists complained.

The center's operators, Richard and Carol Foster, rescue animals and attempt to return many of them to the wild.