Whistling for the Jaguar

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

The Kirby Factor

One of the people whom should have been informed of Macho B’s photo and track detections in the snaring area was Kirby Bristow, the lead field biologist for the AZGFD snaring project. McCain, Smith, and Crabb failed to contact their supervisor, Bristow, and inform him of Macho B’s presence.

But, Bristow was aware of the potential to snare a jaguar. He told the USFWS special agents that jaguar protocol was discussed from the moment lion trapping in SE Arizona was brought up. He also stated he spoke with McCain regarding jaguar sightings and the potential of catching a jaguar in the area of the Atascosa Mountain snaring efforts. According to Bristow, McCain had told him the most recent detection of Macho B in the area was the August 2008 photograph. Bristow stated it was, “understood that we weren’t trying to catch a jaguar.” Bristow said he told everyone involved, including McCain, “that this was not a jaguar project.” But, Bristow does not recall, “specifically, telling the field team (McCain, Smith and Crabb) to advise him if they discovered evidence of a jaguar in the study area.” In addition, “he did not specifically advise anyone to avoid catching a jaguar at all costs.”

Bristow also inquired about the need for an Environmental Assessment Checklist for the snaring project. On January 20,2009 Dean Treadwell (administrator for AZGFD) emailed Chasa O’Brien, and Bristow was cc’d, the following message: “…talked with Bill (Van Pelt) because Kirby called inquiring about the EA checklist for the jaguar. I’m thinking you may want to chat with (redacted). We are technically covered if we inadvertently acquire one, but not if we go after one. You might want to hear the story from (redacted) to decide if we are covered enough, because if we do acquire one it is likely certain parties will raise some noise. The other approach would be to work this issue to the top and prepare a briefing that Larry (Voyles) can take to Regional F&W Service Director.”

When the snaring had resumed in February it was Bristow whom had directed the field team to begin in the Atascosa Mountains in an attempt “to collar a replacement lion” for the young female that had been giving the study cross-border data (this was why there was a “should we, shouldn’t we” discussion between McCain and Smith. See post of same name for further details). This female had been killed by the Bear Valley Ranch in January 2009 through a hunt auctioned by Safari Club International. I was present when McCain and Smith talked about the possible involvement of someone with an AZGFD connection in this hunt because the elderly hunter was taken exactly where a collared lion was and they felt she was “hunted” through the VHF receiver on her telemetry collar (this is the reason why the VHF receiver would be disabled on Macho B’s collar).

Even though Bristow had regular contact with Smith Feb.3-18, Smith told him of the bear and lion tracks found in the snaring area, but not the jaguar tracks. Bristow stated, “if he knew Macho B was frequenting the area he would have insisted that snares be moved from the area.” Bristow suspected, “that he may have been left out of the loop because he didn’t support catching a jaguar.”


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