Whistling for the Jaguar

The un-redacted story of the jaguar, Macho B's snaring and death.

Jaguar Immobilization

On 2-2-09 McCain emailed Dr. Roberto Aguilar in part (Thorry Smith is cc’d) :  “I wanted to pick your brain for the most recent knowledge on jaguar immobilization. I was hoping that we could make ourselves completely prepared for the unintended event of catching a jag. I already set the snares in the most jag friendly way possible: short leads, large shock absorbers, etc…”

Dr. Aguilar is a well respected veterinarian that had previously worked at the Phoenix Zoo. He was a member of the JAGCT scientific advisory team, served as an informal consultant on many projects and on this date had an application for employment pending with AZGFD. Dr. Aguilar contacted Dr. Sharon Deem, co-author of the Jaguar Health Program Manual, and a well respected wildlife vet and epidemiologist.  Dr. Aguilar asked Dr. Deem for her recommended protocol for a possible jaguar capture using snares in the middle of nowhere with no vet.

On 2-3-09 Dr. Deem responds: “This is a tricky question but my thoughts are that Telazol in the hands of inexperienced “anesthesiologist” has the least detrimental effects. The problem I have seen and heard of the most is prolonged recoveries. Alternatively, the ket/xyl (ketamine/xylazine) combo would probably work and be safe and much shorter recovery time…”

Dr. Aguilar forwards Dr. Deem’s email to McCain and Smith along with his own comments. Smith ended up using Telazol on Macho B at his initial capture.

Dr. Aguilar blind copied USFWS “jaguar lead” Erin Fernandez on this email chain titled “jaguar immobilization” between Aguilar, Deem, Smith and McCain. And on 2-6-09 he forwarded Fernandez the following email he sent to Chasa O’Brien (AZGFD Project lead for snaring project): “I wanted to give you a “heads up” on a email exchange regarding jaguars and anesthesia that I had with Emil McCain and Thorry Smith. They asked for a good, safe way to anesthetize a jaguar, should one be accidentally trapped as part of AZGFD black bear, lion study…I don’t want you to be surprised if you hear about it from the field team. Just trying to be helpful.”

Fernandez first denied having knowledge about the drug/dosage inquiry by McCain and Smith when asked about it by the USFWS agents in charge of the Macho B investigation. When the agents showed her the email chain she was blind copied on by Dr. Aguilar she then said she didn’t recall the emails. O’Brien stated she didn’t think anything about the email Dr. Aguilar sent her and chalked it up to him sucking up to her because of his pending job application with AZGFD. This was odd, to me, because just a few weeks prior O’Brien had actually started to inquire about whether an Environmental Assessment should be done for the snaring project in case of a jaguar capture. Her inquiry was prompted by Ron Thompson casually telling her several times over the previous months that there was a possibility of incidentally capturing a jaguar through the lion/bear snaring project. Neither Fernandez or O’Brien did anything with the knowledge that Dr. Aguilar provided them.

Dr. Aguilar also forwarded the “jaguar immobilization” email chain to Bill Van Pelt of AZGFD on 2-3-09. Van Pelt is a non-game biologist who had been active on the JAGCT. And on this day he had been approached by Thompson (the third person in 2 weeks to inquire about permits in regard to a jaguar capture) who wanted to know if AZGFD would be covered (by a permit) if a jaguar was caught during the lion/bear study. Thompson also told him there was sign all over down south and there was the possibility of capturing an animal (a jaguar by the name of Macho B) that weekend. McCain had just picked up 3 new pics of Macho B taken in January from the Tumacacori Mountains. McCain would  send out his official notification to the agencies that night and Thompson, Van Pelt, and Fernandez were recipients of that email which included the dates, GPS points, and the mountain range name from where the pictures were taken. Van Pelt deleted Dr. Aguilar’s email and “figured he would handle the matter if needed,” but he stated,”the message made it clear a jaguar was not targeted.”

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