Whistling for the Jaguar

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

The Investigation: Larry Voyles

Larry Voyles is the Director of AZGFD.

Voyles stated: “When the lion/bear study was not active in either Nov. or Dec. 2008, AZGFD Endangered Species Coordinator, Terry Johnson came to him and stated there was a possibility that a jaguar might be captured during the study. Johnson expressed a desire to have the capability to collar a jaguar should one get caught in a snare and wanted to work with the USFWS to be allowed to collar it. Johnson told him that a donated collar (the North Star collar donated to McCain) was available for the effort. The conversation was intended to be prepared for an inadvertent capture and not one intended for the pursuit of a jaguar capture. He thought that discussions about capturing a jaguar also occurred between the USFWS and AZGFD after the meeting with Johnson. He did not know how the understanding he had with Johnson (that a pursuit of a jaguar was not an option) got passed on down the chain of command. He did not know if this was a leadership failure or if a subordinate did not follow directives.”

With regard to AZGFD’s request of USFWS to preserve Macho B’s hide after he was euthanized, Voyles stated, “he did not recall if he was made aware of any limitations a cosmetic necropsy would have over a normal necropsy and if it would limit determining cause of death.”

On 3-31-09 Johnson came to Voyles and told him McCain had contacted him about my allegations of the use of jag scat and that McCain denied it. But, McCain did tell Johnson that, “jaguar scat was used at a remote game camera about half a mile away from the snare.” Johnson told Voyles, “the use of jaguar scat anywhere near the snaring project was a fact that would not look positive for AZGFD.” According to Voyles: “A meeting was held with other AZGFD officials about the matter and USFWS Regional Director Dr. Tuggle was included. Tuggle requested the AZGFD conduct its own administrative investigation. He (Voyles) then contacted the Attorney General for AZ, Terry Godard, to request the AG (the lawyers for AZGFD) conduct an external investigation rather than have the AZGFD investigate itself.” Ultimately, the USFWS committed to conducting the criminal investigation as demanded by AZ Congressman Raul Grijalva. The AZGFD did conduct its own internal administrative investigation which they claim is still ongoing.

Voyles wondered “how far up the chain of command did the knowledge of the use of jaguar scat go?” Voyles stated: “it was troubling that the AZGFD was aware of a jaguar presence in the same mountain range where AZGFD was trapping for lions and bears and that it was not reported up the chain of command. However he felt there was also not a directive requiring the project stopped if there was ever any knowledge of a jaguar presence in the area.”

This comment from Voyles absolutely stuns me as AZGFD is co-lead in jaguar conservation for the U.S. with New Mexico Game and Fish and they work in partnership with USFWS. Jaguars documented in the U.S. are extremely rare with Macho B being the only individual of the species to be documented, over a 13 year span, on any type of consistent basis. Why would the safety of the one resident jaguar in the U.S. not be addressed in relation to an AZGFD trapping project, occurring in known jaguar habitat and territory, that utilized such an indiscriminate trapping device as snares? In addition, Johnson had briefed Voyles about the possibility of Macho B (they refer to him as jaguar) being captured during the AZGFD snaring project and since Voyles is the Director of AZGFD, that is pretty much the top of the chain of command. Johnson had also drafted a jaguar capture and collar memo, authorizing a jaguar capture, which Voyles saw as indicated by his signature on the draft and his sending the email document to Johnson (see blog posts, Draft for Authorization & Capture and Collar Memo). Also, Thorry Smith stated he had gone to Voyles and AZGFD Deputy Director Hovatter for advice informing them, “snaring would be commencing soon in the jaguar area and that they had a jaguar telemetry collar.”
Voyles said, “he felt if AZGFD employees were not in compliance with the Endangered Species Act permit granted by the USFWS to the AZGFD, that they would in essence not be covered as a state employee.”

Voyles offered the following excuses for AZGFD: “He thought communication was a big problem within AZGFD as well as the organizational structure. Other field branches of the AZGFD could be operating in areas where the local AZGFD Region were not aware of a particular project’s implementation. He realized there was no chain of command/communication between the different branches such as the ‘Wildlife Management Division’ and those who hold special positions such as Endangered Species Coordinator.”

I call bullshit on these bureaucratic excuses. They are ridiculous, unprofessional, and conveniently unaccountable reasons for why AZGFD does not or cannot do their jobs properly. Yet another example of who/what jaguars need to be protected from before addressing which mountain tops will be protected for them.

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