Whistling for the Jaguar

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

The Investigation: Steve Spangle

Spangle is a USFWS Field Supervisor. He was interviewed under the protection of Garrity on 6-11-09 by a USFWS Special Agent and an investigator from the Office of the Inspector General.

Spangle was called by the vets from the Phoenix Zoo and told Macho B was sedated and “the blood work is off the charts” with regard to his kidneys, indicating renal failure. Spangle was also informed that Macho B was 20% underweight. The vets gave Spangle three choices for Macho B; euthanasia, allowing the disease to run its course in captivity, or releasing him back into the wild to die. Regarding his decision, Spangle stated: “To me, there was really no second thoughts about it, that the best thing to do for that animal was to euthanize it. The information I had from two veterinarians was that it was irreversible, and it was fatal, and it was just a matter of time.”

Spangle then called the USFWS Regional Director, Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, and told him the options that were presented and his decision to have Macho B euthanized. According to Spangle, Tuggle replied, “You made the right call.” The next decision was what to do with Macho B’s remains. Spangle thought a museum should have his skeletal parts. AZGFD requested to have his hide. To preserve the hide, the vets suggested that a cosmetic necropsy needed to be done. Spangle asked Dr. Tuggle what he wanted done about the hide and Tuggle responded,”I’m going to need to think about that, and I’ll call Larry (AZGFD Director Voyles) and we’ll talk about it.”

But, Spangle apparently approved the cosmetic necropsy to accommodate AZGFD’s request without realizing that it was different from a full necropsy. Spangle explained: “And in my naivete, I didn’t have any clue that that would compromise the soft tissues. I just thought… to conserve the skin, they would do a more careful job, midline cut probably, and skin it carefully. I didn’t know until later that it prevented them from testing the brain and spinal tissue is what I hear now.”

Shortly after Macho B’s death, AZGFD Director Voyles “called kind of an emergency conference call with Benjamin and I to talk about the fact that some emails had been discovered about a month or so before the capture about the proper drug dose.” Spangle continued: “And Larry (Voyles) felt that that would, at least on the surface, look like they intentionally captured the jaguar. At that time, this Thorry (AZGFD tech Thorry Smith) person was in Hawaii. Larry said, ‘Well, I’m going to track him down, because this is a great concern to me, because if he was intentionally trying to trap this animal, that was outside of his instructions, therefore outside the terms of our permit, and therefore I need to get to the bottom of it and I will.’ They apparently tracked him down and Thorry convinced Larry-and Larry was absolutely certain that he was telling the truth-that it was simply prep, kind of an “in case” if we do… So that was the first indication I had that there was anything amiss.”

With regard to permits, Spangle stated: “I had redacted when this incident happened, look into was their (AZGFD) permit in order. And there had been some emails from some staff that said they didn’t see how it was…I don’t pretend to know that stuff.” But at a joint USFWS, AZGFD, and Phoenix Zoo press conference on March 6, 2009 Spangle stated: “USFWS planning for opportunity to capture and collar a jaguar in the U.S. for ten years… Ultimately, USFWS issued a permit for the capture of the jaguar.”

The investigators question Spangle about jaguar being dropped from AZGFD’s permit in 2007. Spangle reads from an AZGFD email: “It says, this is under the jag, ‘Remove this species and stipulations since the activity should be covered under our Section 6 work plan (their outline of what they want to do). Delete jag. You are authorized for scientific research and recovery purposes to pursue and capture one jag.’ Well, it’s saying to delete that. That used to be in there, which it’s too bad it wasn’t.” The investigators let Spangle know that there is no mention of collaring a jaguar or of “take” of a jaguar in AZGFD’s Section 6 work plan and nothing was signed by the Jaguar Conservation Team authorizing the capture of a jaguar. As one of the investigators stated, “If they’re carrying the equipment to apply the collar, you’d want to make sure you had that explicitly covered somewhere… and the drugs.”

Concerning the AZGFD snaring project:

Investigator: But certainly if they (USFWS) knew that this jaguar was out there, somebody has to be sort of signing off on it and taking a look at it, and just making sure that their (AZGFD) permits are accurate… the right protocol is being followed…

Spangle: In retrospect, that’s something that should probably be done, but I don’t know that any of us ever contemplated that there was a realistic chance that they were going to get a jaguar.

Investigator: Who was responsible for making sure that these people doing the right thing-meaning AZGFD-that they didn’t have some subcontractor in there being paid by the government to help them, meaning AZGFD, to facilitate this… and Emil’s got his own agenda, which is to catch a jaguar. But who knows his background? Who knows that he had problems in the past? So who is responsible?

Spangle: Game and Fish

Investigator: Who is responsible for AZGFD to make sure that they’re doing the right thing?

Spangle: For doing T&E (threatened and endangered) work, we are. I mean, they have to have a permit from our Regional office saying you can do this, that and you can’t do this or that… Yeah, in retrospect, had we had reason to know about the fact they were doing trapping down in jaguar country, speaking just for me, I would have advised them, “Hey, you better get a permit just in case.”

Continuing with the oversight theme, the investigators ask Spangle if Erin Fernandez, the “jaguar lead” for USFWS in Arizona should have been more engaged since she and others in USFWS were part of the email chain from McCain when he notified the agencies of Macho B’s most recent detections. Spangle replied: “Had she known that they were trapping down there, yeah, I would think whether she legally was responsible to know, but I would think in her head, ‘Wow, they’re trapping where they’re photographing, where they know there’s a jaguar. They better have a permit.'” The investigators then ask Spangle if Fernandez ever informed him of AZGFD trapping where Macho B was photographed. He answers, “no,” as she would first inform her supervisor, Sherry Barrett, who then would inform Spangle. Neither woman informed Spangle that AZGFD was snaring where Macho B was getting his picture taken and where his tracks had been discovered. The investigators theorize that Fernandez, “May have also thought they were covered under incidental (permit).” And Spangle theorizes “she may not have ever made the connection that there’s a chance that they’re going to get a jaguar down there.”

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