Whistling for the Jaguar

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

The Investigation: Bill Van Pelt, Part 1

Van Pelt is a non-game biologist with AZGFD. He was apart of the Jaguar Conservation Team for years.

1. December 5, 2008: Van Pelt is one of the recipients of Terry Johnson’s email concerning “talking with Director Voyles about Macho B” and putting “final touches on an authorization to capture and collar memo.”  (See blog post, The Investigation:Terry Johnson, part 2)

2. January 2009: Van Pelt learns McCain is apart of the AZGFD lion and bear snaring project.

3. February 3, 2009: Van Pelt is one of the recipients of McCain’s agency notification emails about Macho B’s latest photo detections from several weeks prior in the Tumacacori Mountains.

AZGFD Carnivore Biologist, Ron Thompson, approaches Van Pelt about permits for a jaguar capture. According to Van Pelt: “Ron Thompson came to my office regarding our incidental take permit for jaguars as it related to the bear and lion study. This was the third time in a two week period someone was inquiring about our permit, which was becoming an annoyance. Ron mentioned that there was sign all over down south. I took this as a statement that jaguar presence was all over in southern Arizona (I did not know at the time, which mountain ranges were being trapped for the bear-lion study) and Ron wanted to make sure we were covered for incidental take… As we were exiting my office, Ron mentioned the possibility of capturing an animal starting this weekend. I told Ron we were covered for any incidental capture and hopefully we had someone skilled with handling cats.”

4. February 6, 2009: Van Pelt is bcc’d on an email Dr. Aguilar forwarded/bcc’d to AZGFD Research Branch Chief Chasa O’Brien and USFWS “Jaguar Lead” Erin Fernandez about McCain and Smith inquiring about proper drugs and dosages for immobilizing a snared jaguar if one should be trapped during the lion and bear study.

According to Van Pelt, “he deleted the message (email) and figured Chasa would handle the matter if needed, but the message made it clear a jaguar was not targeted.”

5. February 9,2009: Van Pelt is a recipient of McCain’s agency notification email about Macho B’s latest photo detection and the discovery of Macho B’s tracks, both from several weeks prior, in the Atascosa-Pajarita mountain complex.

The USFWS Special Agents asked Van Pelt: “Why he did not make the connection that a jaguar was being targeted. He had the most up-to-date knowledge: On February 3, Ron Thompson told him that the snaring was starting and that a jaguar could be snared as early as the weekend; he received the notifications from McCain that the jaguar was recently detected; and he was aware of McCain’s desire to know how to properly tranquillize a snared jaguar.”

Van Pelt responded: “He did not make the connections because he did not know that the jaguar was actually photographed near the snare sites or otherwise in the area. He did not know where the Tumacacori Mountains were. He could not explain why he did not immediately notify the AZGFD Endangered Species Coordinator Terry Johnson about the facts at hand. He said he did speak with Johnson about the matter after the death of Macho B and they started questioning the facts.”

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