Whistling for the Jaguar

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

The Investigation: Terry Johnson, part 2


So back to the email Johnson sent to several AZGFD employees including Ron Thompson, Bill Van Pelt, Emil McCain, and also Jack Childs. This email was sent the day after Johnson revised the authorization to capture and collar a jaguar memo. The memo now included specific reference to Macho B’s most recent location in the vicinity of AZGFD snares and cited the possibility that Macho B, referenced as jaguar, could be “an inadvertent capture.” The memo was revised after Johnson met with the Director of AZGFD and both men supposedly agreed Macho B was not a “viable candidate” for capture because he was too old and therefore, shouldn’t be captured.

The email reads in full:

“The most recent dunning letter to Department of Homeland Security was just 2 weeks ago, but it seems like the first exchange on this occurred 18 or so months ago. Maybe longer. Anyway, maybe the Governor can apply a little more pressure than USFWS has been able to apply.

I also discussed Macho B with Director Voyles again yesterday. I am now putting the final touches on an authorization to capture and collar memo. The TENTATIVE plan is for Larry to brief the Governor next week, while Steve {Spangle-USFWS} briefs Ben Tuggle {SW Director of USFWS}. The Governor’s briefing is a courtesy, the Tuggle briefing is to get concurrence. Assuming that no concerns erupt at Tuggle’s end, Larry would sign the authorization memo late that week or early the next one (it depends on when the briefings are completed).

Please don’t take any of this information outside this loop. That includes agency folks. I do not want to see another anti-trapping postcard/letter/email campaign and none of us has any control on who anyone outside this loops (sic) talks to.”

So this is how Johnson expects the recipients to interpret this email:

1. With reference to Childs and McCain being recipients of the email: “Its just one of the tasks that – I mean, they’re (Childs & McCain) part of the Jaguar Conservation Team and this is something that’s of very much concern to them, the fact that I’ve never pulled the trigger on that memo. So I’m just telling them I’m working on it… I’m trying to keep them involved and give them hope… I am not trying to give them hope about capturing Macho B at all. I’m trying to give them hope that we’re going to find funding to keep things alive on the camera monitoring and to move to that next level where the next time a jaguar comes in, all the pieces are in place so that you can jump on that thing…”

2. In regard to the Macho B reference: “I’m living up to my commitment to talk to him (Voyles) about Macho B. Well, I’m talking to him about Macho B about two things. I’m talking to him about the November records (the photos that captured Macho B). Is the jaguar still alive? That means do we need to continue our camera monitoring? And we need money…” He also talks to Voyles, supposedly, about Macho B being too old for capture.

3. With reference to the briefings of AZGFD and USFWS and the Governor (Napolitano)  Johnson said it all had to do with funding. Napolitano was about to become the Secretary of Homeland Security and the hope was that Voyles could get her to apply some pressure on getting that DHS “pot of gold” released (this is in reference to the dunning letter in the first paragraph). “If we got the heads-up on funding, and we had that piece. The next piece is that we would try and work with Steve (Spangle-USFWS) to do his briefing for Tuggle, then we’d move through that process. In all this, I’m hopeful that I can have this wrapped up before the February Conservation Team meeting, yeah.”

Voyles’ meeting with Napolitano never occurred and the “pot of gold” remained hidden until last year when it was granted to the University of Arizona in the amount of $771,000 for a three year jaguar camera monitoring project. Childs and Thompson are part of that project. According to Johnson, before the capture and collar memo could be authorized there needed to be funds in place to monitor a collared jaguar in the long-term (the animal’s life). That funding never occurred during this time period and thus, there was no “decision package” on the authorization memo and it was never finalized.

4. With regard to citing the authorization memo and the anti-trapping reference: “Authorization to capture a jaguar, the memo might be signed or might not be signed… I’m trying to wrap things up by the February conservation meeting, so in my mind, the briefings with Fish and Wildlife Service and New Mexico Game and Fish and the signature of that memo, what I would have to deal with is the reality that I would have to explain to folks who are completely opposed to capture of any jaguar, as well as to McCain and Childs, who for all I know at this point still would not rule out capture of Macho B, that that authorization does not apply to this jaguar (Macho B), because this is an old jaguar, and we would not carry out that authorization in any way, shape or form in an area in which the capture of Macho B is a possibility.”

So that is how the email should have been interpreted. An odd thing about this email is there was never any follow-up by Johnson, not even to inform everyone that funding had not become available. And certainly not to inform them the authorization memo was never finalized nor that Macho B would not be targeted for capture. And then, as far as I am aware, there was no response to Johnson’s email by any of the recipients. Johnson sent this email and then there was complete silence. Not even a cricket could be heard. It was like a silent and pliable wall of plausible deniability was being built, mostly benefitting Johnson, for the “in case” scenario of the email recipients taking his words at face value (and probably how he meant them) and attempting to capture Macho B, because an opportunity arose, before all the briefings were completed. After all, the email reads like the authorization memo was just about complete and Voyles had approved it.

USFWS Special Agent: “So how did you notify them and in what manner did you notify them that Macho B is not a target for any type of capture?”

Johnson: “Well, I didn’t. I go down to the meeting (Jaguar Conservation Team meeting) on February 19th (day after Macho B’s capture) with the expectation that I’m going to be – because I haven’t finished the authorization. The briefings haven’t taken place. I have to deal with the reality that when we get to this issue, I’m going to have to say that Macho B is not in play… The incredible irony is that I walk in the door down there expecting to have to deliver this message that Macho B is off the table, only to be greeted with the knowledge that Macho B is on the table.”


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