Whistling for the Jaguar

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

cameras, scat and snares

Part one:

On February 4, 2009 McCain called Bear Valley Ranch owner, Dan Bell, to advise him that he would be trapping mountain lions and bears south of the ranch. McCain wanted to know how to handle cattle if they were accidentally caught. According to Bell, McCain had not informed him of the snaring activities around the ranch in the fall of 2008 and thought that was “strange.” Bell was aware of the Macho B photos recovered in November so he asked McCain if the jaguar was in the area. McCain replied, “yes.” Bell then asked, “If you happen to get him snared, do you have the permit and everything to collar him and everything else?” McCain said that, “they did.” (they being azgfd)

After new photos of Macho B were recovered in November 2008 confirming he was still alive and in the BJDP/AZGFD study areas, McCain said he called Thompson to ask for his advice. He told Thompson, “the thing is here.” Thompson supposedly said, “Nothing to worry about-legitimate state run study. ” According to McCain, he then asked Thompson if the AZGFD had a permit if the jaguar was captured and Thompson told him there was an” incidental capture permit; McCain had a jaguar telemetry collar and McCain was working for AZGFD.”

On the morning of February 4, McCain stated he was separating 2 batches of jaguar scat at the Ruby Rd. exit off I-19, when Smith arrived. They caravanned to the Bear Valley Ranch to meet me. We met at the ranch and McCain and I got our gear together for the day; batteries, memory cards for the cameras, a drill and bits, and the jaguar scat. The scat was transferred from a large bucket to a small tupperware container to take in the field. This day was supposed to be a tour of sorts for Smith to show him the area and snare sites while McCain and I serviced the BJDP cameras. At the first camera site, McCain worked on moving the camera down the trail several feet while I looked over the memory card to see what animals had been photographed. I didn’t pay attention to Smith as he and McCain were talking until I realized that they were discussing the snare. I looked up and Smith was working on the snare, activating it. Since three new pics had been recovered the day before of Macho B I realized that he had jumped to the top of the snaring wish list. Before we left this camera/snare site scat was placed in front of the camera. I asked questions: What about Macho B’s age? McCain replied, “Did you see that picture of him?” (referencing one of the pics retrieved the day before where Macho B looked gorged on food because of his low slung belly) “He looks healthy and strong.” Then I followed up with a question about snares and his former concern that snares should not be used on jaguars. McCain replied that he knew what he was doing. And then I asked if there were permits for everything and he answered, “yes.” Smith said nothing to the contrary.

We checked two more cameras placing scat at both. At the third camera a photo of the backside of a jaguar was retrieved. The picture was taken on January 12 and the jaguar was heading north. McCain and I were pretty sure it was Macho B but the photo would have to be compared with others to verify it was him. We arrived at the last canyon of our hike, Penasco, around sunset. McCain gave verbal directions to Smith to locate the first snare to activate it and then McCain and I walked down to another snare. Before I left him to continue down to the last camera of the day McCain told me to save some scat for a snare. According to his statements to the USFWS agents and Assistant US Attorney, he got the idea to place scat at the snares when we entered Penasco. I took care of the camera and dumped the remainder of the scat in front of it. I left a few pieces that had broken off from the bigger pieces of scat in the container. I met Smith and McCain back at the snare McCain had activated. We then went to the last snare. Smith and McCain activated it while I crouched behind McCain to see how they opened it. At some point McCain directed me to place the scat out. I walked several feet down the trail and dumped the remainder onto the side of the trail.

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