Whistling for the Jaguar

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


In December 2008, McCain, Thompson, and their mutual buddy from Texas Tech, Anthony Giordano talked about the need of a protocol for handling an unintentional capture of a jaguar. Concurrently, McCain’s AZGFD coworker, Smith was unclear what the protocol would be if a jaguar was accidentally snared. So he and REDACTED went to AZGFD Director, Larry Voyles and Deputy Director, Gary Hovatter for guidance on the matter and alerted them to jaguar presence in the snaring area. Smith said they were then referred to Endangered Species Coordinator, Terry Johnson about the matter. It was late in the day so that conversation never took place. Smith and REDACTED never sought guidance about the protocol after their first attempt.

There is also no evidence that Voyles or Hovatter followed up with Smith and REDACTED, or even with Johnson about the protocol for accidentally capturing a jaguar. Odd behavior for an appointed lead agency tasked with jaguar conservation in AZ and the U.S. and whom claimed Macho B was not a target for capture.

AZGFD sub-contractor and BJDP biologist, Emil McCain, shared his thoughts about possibly capturing Macho B with the USFWS agents during one of his “use immunity” interviews: ” If this happens, let it happen. I wanted that thing caught-absolutely.”

And AZGFD tech, Thorry Smith stated: “We waited forever for it [Macho B] to come through the snare and when it did I was scared and happy at the same time…” Curious words in regard to accidentally capturing a jaguar.

Regarding jaguar capture protocols:

Kirby Bristow, the AZGFD field supervisor for the lion and bear snaring project stated; “the jaguar protocol was discussed from the moment lion trapping in SE Arizona was brought up; REDACTED was up to date on the latest jaguar protocol and McCain had a jaguar collar which they carried in the field in the event of a jaguar capture.”

Ron Thompson, whom McCain went to for guidance on the snaring project and regarded as his “boss” said with regard to revising protocols:

“We can manage for no known overlap (bear/lion snaring project in Macho B’s territory), but lions in particular travel immense distances. So do you just say we shouldn’t have a research project here, ever, just because we had a jaguar here at one time? Or we know we have one (jaguar) but we haven’t heard from him in a year-but now we have.”

It is the “now” part Thompson blatantly chose to overlook.

According to Bill Van Pelt, AZGFD non-game biologist:

“For a deliberate attempt to capture a jaguar a capture team would be organized which included a veterinarian, dog handler, and other representatives of the USFWS and AZGFD. The Wildlife Conservation Society would be referred to for tranquilizing dosages and proper handling of a jaguar. A Jaguar Conservation Team (JAGCT) determined that capturing a jaguar with the use of hounds was the preferred method. The inadvertent capture of a jaguar would not change how it would be handled however the actual capturing of a jaguar would differ based on intent. The jaguar handling protocol would be referred to mainly for an inadvertent capture of a jaguar but also provide guidance on either capture situation.”

AZGFD Endangered Species Coordinator, Terry Johnson said the following about protocols: “In 2000, the JAGCT established protocols to capture and immobilize a jaguar and these protocols were constantly revisited from 2005-2007.”

Some details of the protocols that Johnson spoke of are:

” Communication for a planned capture was outlined; a “cool weather regime” would be required for capture; have enough data from the remote game cameras (BJDP’s cameras) to know the location of a jaguar; have a capture team in place which included a vet; the Wildlife Conservation Society provided the “mechanics” for the protocols (WCS was also a partner on the AZGFD snaring project).”

Shoddy Work

Johnson described the protocols for an intentional capture of a jaguar as “shoddy work ” that needed updated. In Macho B’s capture several of those details were followed: the “cool weather regime;” use of data from the remote game cameras to know the location of the jaguar; following Wildlife Conservation Society protocols; and I would argue communication about the planned capture of a jaguar. What wasn’t followed was having a vet on the scene and personnel with previous experience capturing and handling a jaguar.

The “shoddy” work of the protocols and their execution is just a taste of what “jaguar conservation” is all about in AZ and the U.S. Most of the people whom were involved, in some manner, in Macho B’s capture are currently still involved in jaguar work. If critical habitat is designated for the jaguar (see blogroll for article) these people will be funded out the wahzoo and probably will be encouraged to put a collar on a jaguar. These are scary thoughts. And if anyone out there believes AZGFD and USFWS will have learned their lesson with Macho B go ask a Mexican gray wolf what it’s been like to have the same agencies making decisions about their lives year after year.


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