The Investgation: Gary Hovatter
Hovatter is the Deputy Director of AZGFD. He was interviewed by USFWS Special Agents on 4-29-09.
Hovatter: “became aware of the jaguar capture on Feb.19, 2009 and was involved in an AZGFD meeting regarding the capture on 2-20-09. There were notification gaps because the AZGFD, up the chain of command, including AZGFD Director Larry Voyles, we’re not notified immediately.”
Hovatter was apart of the conference call where USFWS Steve Spangle agreed to euthanize Macho B once he got “concurrence from USFWS SW Director Benjamin Tuggle.”
On 3-3-09 Hovatter said: “He and Voyles spoke to Tuggle on the phone. They briefed Tuggle about the recapture/euthanasia effort. Tuggle supported the cosmetic necropsy and allowed the AZGFD to use the jaguar remains for display and scientific purposes.”
In Tuggle’s interview, with regard to the cosmetic necropsy, he said “that’s not how I thought we should have proceeded.”
A short time after Macho B was euthanized, Hovatter learned: “that within about 5 to 10 miles (it was actually around 100 or so yards) of the snare site where Macho B was caught, there were pictures taken of tracks found from the jaguar and redacted (either McCain or Smith) may have later assisted redacted (either McCain or Smith) to set snares in the area. He (Hovatter) wondered if the snare was moved into the area because of the jaguar presence.” Smith was later contacted by AZGFD personnel and he informed them, “the decision to ‘move’ the snare in the area had already been made before the recent jaguar photos/tracks were found.”
Hovatter also learned, after the fact, that McCain and Smith had sought advice on immobilizing a jaguar. He “thought gaining the jaguar dosage information was prudent should the team end up capturing the jaguar accidentally.” With regard to the events that led up to Macho B’s capture Hovatter said, “At the time it made sense.”
In the FOIA documents I received there is no mention in Hovatter’s and Voyle’s interview notes regarding the information Smith provided them before the trapping began in Feb. 2009. Smith had sought their advice, and according to him, told Hovatter and Voyles, “snaring would be commencing soon in the jaguar area and they (AZGFD snaring project field team) had a jaguar telemetry collar (the one donated to McCain by North Star).”
On 3-11-09 Hovatter and Voyles contacted USFWS SW Director Tuggle and Field Supervisor Spangle to “discuss the AZGFD endangered species permit issued by USFWS.” Hovatter said: “Tuggle and Spangle agreed and supported their decision that the AZGFD ESA permit allowed either an intentional or un-intentional jaguar capture.”
According to Tuggle’s interview, he was unaware that ‘jaguar’ had been removed from the AZGFD permit until told by a USFWS Special Agent on 5-27-09.
According to Hovatter, Voyles did say during the inter-agency call that,”if the capture was intentional, the AZGFD employees who participated in the effort would have been acting out of policy and thus not covered by the permit.” Hovatter said,”Tuggle and Spangle were told the information provided by Smith re-affirmed the claim that the jaguar capture was unintentional.”
Hovatter was informed on 3-31-09 about my allegations of jaguar scat and that the AZ Daily Star was going to print a report that Macho B’s capture was intentional. He was also told that, “McCain did say jaguar scat was used at BJDP cameras nearby.”
“Among the many issues that resulted in the jaguar capture, Hovatter felt the most frustration in the fact that no one within AZGFD had full command of the entire process.”
Hovatter got some of that command back for AZGFD as he was one of the people who interviewed AZGFD employees for their internal, administrative investigation into Macho B’s snaring and death. Out of that investigation, apparently still ongoing so documents remain in the protected, redacted format, Smith lost his job but McCain, Voyles, and Hovatter were never interviewed.