Whistling for the Jaguar

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

Day 11: February 28

McCain emails Van Pelt and Smith: “Better News. So as of 5 AM your time, Macho B was 200 meters to the south and a little to the east. He has gained 200 feet elevation! He is close to the spot where I has (sic) advised as an observation point. May want to re-huddle??…”

The second update reads: “Ok, more news! At 7:50 another point came in. He is moving south up a ridge. Great.”

And four hours later another update from McCain: “We have another data point from 12 noon. The animal is moving up a ridge to the south. He is 230 meters form (sic) the stream bottom and 200 vertical feet. I will try calling the ground team right now with the location and a possible observation point.”

According to Van Pelt he had become frustrated with McCain after his last Macho B update the previous day, “because once again Emil started discussions and devised a plan to go in to see Macho B without calling the Department lead.” So Van Pelt called, “multiple people (Larry Voyles, and several redacted names) and coordinated a slightly different party to go in for a look see.” Johnson (who was on medical leave at the time) also expressed frustration with McCain. According to him, “he was concerned that McCain and Smith were reluctant to asses the jaguar and that they were going to Thompson for advice.” He was further bothered, “that they were making decisions and field assessments about the recapture of Macho B.” Johnson stated, “It’s not their fucking call.” Johnson thought McCain, “was stalling because he missed out on everything (the initial capture) and wanted to assess the jaguar himself when he returned to Arizona on March 9.”

According to Van Pelt: “On February 28 they (Van Pelt, Smith, and Kurt Bahti of AZGFD) arrived at Bear Valley Ranch between 1230-1300 and were at the mouth of the canyon with Macho B around 1500. We found tracks in the bottom about 150 yards up.” Regarding the tracks, Smith stated, “One set looked like the animal was moving very slowly, with the rear track not reaching the front track.” Smith said he, “felt the animal was not moving right.”  According to Van Pelt: “There was no evidence of a kill. Kurt had the only GPS unit in the group. Thorry had forgotten his in the truck, which I thought was peculiar considering this was the only way we were going to find Macho B ” (the GPS points from Macho B’s collar would have been entered into the hand-held GPS unit to guide the team to Macho B’s location). The men had split up to locate Macho B and to look for the possible kill. No kill or evidence of one was found though Bahti thought he had located a bedding site that could have been Macho B’s. The team did not got a visual on Macho B either. Van Pelt stated, ” We stayed in the area until 1700 putting out the meat Thorry brought.”

Smith stated he was the first to arrive at their rendezvous point and “noticed a large group of illegal immigrants coming out of the canyon to the south.” Either Bahti or Van Pelt arrived next and they “were approached by an illegal immigrant asking what we were doing.” The team made it back to their vehicles and left Bear Valley. Van Pelt and Smith went to eat in Nogales and that is when Smith told Van Pelt he had called an AZGFD contract vet, Ole Alcumbrac, and that he was driving down to assist with Macho B. It was then decided that the next day the food caches left for Macho B would be checked and another visual would be attempted.

According to Dr. Alcumbrac he had “received a phone call from Smith about Macho B. Smith inquired if it was normal if the jaguar was not making large ground movements, but was localized in a small area.” Dr. Alcumbrac replied, “that either the jaguar had a large food supply at that location or Macho B had medical issues.” He then, ” suggested that he travel to the area and they attempt to recapture the jaguar to determine what was wrong with the animal.” According to Dr. Alcumbrac, “Thorry was concerned with disturbing the animal, but eventually agreed…”


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