Whistling for the Jaguar

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

The Investigation: Dr. Benjamin Tuggle

Dr. Tuggle is the USFWS Southwest Regional Director. He was interviewed under the protection of Garrity on 5-27-09 by a USFWS Special Agent (SA) and an Office of Inspector General Investigator.

With regard to his understanding of Macho B’s initial capture Tuggle stated: “My initial impression was that it was an accidental, kind of serendipitous set of circumstances by which we had the jaguar step in a snare and we captured it.” Tuggle continued, “He was not asked if they could collar the jaguar after it was captured. It was already done by the time he knew of the capture. He was told by Steve Spangle (USFWS Field Supervisor out of Tucson) that the jaguar was an incidental take under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act.”

After Macho B was confirmed to have renal failure by vets at the Phoenix Zoo, Tuggle, “told them to euthanize that cat. And I told them that I had every expectation there would be a full necropsy on that cat…”

The USFWS SA informed Tuggle during this interview that a cosmetic, not a full necropsy had been performed at the request of AZGFD in order to preserve Macho B’s hide.

Dr. Tuggle’s response: “Well, see that’s not a viable reason… Because there’s other things you could have gotten from that necropsy to tell you something about the way the animal was living. And so I would not have sacrificed that information for the preservation of a pelt. Or a skull… You still could have had a full necropsy and still had access to a good pelt… That’s disappointing, because that’s not how I thought we should have proceeded.”

A few weeks after Macho B was euthanized Tuggle was advised by AZGFD Director Voyles, AZGDF Deputy Director Hovatter, and AZGFD Endangered Species Coordinator Johnson: “that there may be some irregularities as it related to, if they intentionally captured the animal. It was agreed AZGFD would deal with this issue administratively within their department. After the newspaper article came out it was decided the USFWS office of law enforcement would investigate the capture, re-capture, and euthanasia of the jaguar. Then he (Tuggle) received the letter from Rep. Grijalva to investigate the incident.”

Dr. Tuggle stated that there was concern from AZGFD about their permit coverage for “take” of a jaguar and specifically if it covered AZGFD sub-contractors (McCain was their sub-contractor). Tuggle consulted with Spangle about the USFWS permit issued to AZGFD. According to Tuggle: “At first we thought it was covered because the jaguar was caught by accident. After the jaguar died, people started asking questions about the permit in terms of what was covered and what wasn’t covered. And I just got to be honest with you, and we may be culpable in this regard, our permit is with the state…” Tuggle was unsure if AZGFD subcontractors were covered under the AZGFD permit.

Dr. Tuggle was not aware that the jaguar was dropped from the Section 10 permit (more on permits in a future post) as issued to AZGFD in 2007 by USFWS. Tuggle said he, “was still operating under the premise that the jaguar was included in the Section 10 incidental take permit.” (In Section 10 permits prior to 2007 the jaguar was specifically listed.) When the USFWS SA informs Tuggle the jaguar is not included in the permit with AZGFD Tuggle responds, “the intent was to have it included.”

USFWS SA: You understood the incidental take of it was covered?

Tuggle: Right

USFWS SA: But any other take of it wouldn’t have been…

Tuggle: Right. And had I known that, I would have told them (AZGFD) then. In fact, I would have had to whisper in his (AZGFD Director Voyles) ear, “You know, the jaguar is not in this permit.” But, like I said, I thought it was.

AZGFD has maintained that USFWS agreed with them that they were covered under their permit for the incidental and intentional take of a jaguar.

Tuggle questioned, “Why the trappers (AZGFD) for mountain lions and bears would have a radio collar to fit a jaguar.” He commented, “That’s kind of spooky.”

In closing Tuggle remarked that giving a name to the jaguar, Macho B, was “part of the symptom of why this thing has exploded the way it has exploded.” As he explains: “I have never been a proponent of naming these animals, because something happens when you put a name on an animal… it gives them a persona. Then all of a sudden, if something happens to them, then people react to that persona. And these are not pets. That’s why I won’t let people name my wolves (the reintroduced Mexican Gray Wolves in AZ and NM). Here I am saying ‘my wolves.'”

Macho is the Spanish word for a male animal. B is the second letter of the alphabet. The “name” Macho B signified that he was the second male jaguar to be documented on the BJDP camera project.

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One thought on “The Investigation: Dr. Benjamin Tuggle

  1. Theo Cliff on said:

    Keep em coming. enjoy the read.

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