Whistling for the Jaguar

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

Emil McCain, Part 2

Conspiracy to “take” an endangered species: “to knowingly and intentionally combine and conspire, confederate and agree with persons known and unknown to commit an offense against the United States and any agency thereof, that is, knowingly attempt to harass, harm, pursue, trap, capture and collect without lawful permit or authority a jaguar (Panthera Onca), an endangered species.”

On July 31, 2009 a search warrant was served on McCain’s email account.

1. August, 28, 2008: From McCain to REDACTED: “… feds (USFWS) won’t let me catch cats. Mostly they fear the implications of the data from a GPS collar. Pretty frustrating.”

2. August 29, 2008: McCain emails the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, WA requesting jaguar urine and feces.

3. September 2, 2008: McCain emails the Phoenix Zoo in Phoenix, AZ requesting jaguar scat and urine.

4. October 2, 2008: Ron Thompson (lion/bear biologist for AZGFD) emails Kirby Bristow (lead field biologist for AZGFD lion/bear snaring project) about using McCain for $200/day to assist with the AZGFD lion and bear snaring project.

5. October 5, 2008: Smith and McCain meet via email and talk about setting a date and time to meet in the field.

6. October 6, 2008: McCain gets added to Ron Thompson’s DEA license to possess and use the drug, Ketamine for lion captures. Thompson vouches for McCain that he does not have a criminal record nor has been convicted of a felony.

7. October 14, 2008: McCain emails Erin Fernandez, Jaguar Lead of USFWS that he is working with AZGFD. Fernandez is aware of the project as she asks if McCain will be working with Bristow.

8. November 1, 2008: McCain emails Bristow, “So I now have 3 lion collars and the other (donated jag collar) just in case.”

9. November 4, 2008: McCain collars female lion in Atascosa/Pajarita range with Michelle Crabb and his father. The lion is killed in January 2009.

10. November 8, 2008: McCain emails a friend in part: “Right now I am paid big bucks to catch the cats. And well that is fun and I have my own jag collar in my pack at all times. Did I say that I am choosing my sites carefully. So, yeah that (sic) fucking feds won’t give me permission, so I will just have to accidentally do it.”

McCain contacts Phoenix Zoo about scat collection.

11. November 9, 2008: McCain collars male puma in Patagonia Mountains. He emails pictures of the capture, including a picture of the VHF frequency of the lion’s collar to friends and AZGFD personnel.

12.November 10, 2008: McCain emails Thompson about picture just retrieved of Macho B from August 3rd confirming he is alive and well. Thompson responds: “I would like to reemphasize the need to watch the trapping situation and to know if there is a possibility of snaring him soon.”

13. November 12, 2008: McCain emails Thompson: “We need to talk about how to handle reporting this new sighting [Macho B] in the area where I am trapping and hope to be able to continue to do so without appearing to be hiding anything. I need to inform REDACTED and USFWS soon, but I want to talk to you soon.”

McCain emails Phoenix Zoo: “Well, something has come up that expedites and accentuates my need for the samples we spoke about. I just picked up a new jaguar picture… I would love to get the scat out there ASAP. The animal could be anywhere by now, and I need to catch up with him.”

McCain notifies AZGFD and USFWS of new Macho B picture (taken Aug.3) recently retrieved from a Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project (BJDP) camera in the Atascosa Mountains.

14. November 14, 2008: McCain sends the jaguar collar donated to him by Blake Henke of North Star back to Henke for refurbishment.

15. November 17, 2008: McCain collars female lion in Patagonia Mountains. That is the last of the lion collars until Feb. 2009.

McCain emails Dr. Aguilar about new Macho B picture and states:

“We are again working on permission to collar him if we get the chance. Would you use the same ketamine/medatomidine cocktail with him as with a puma?” Aguilar responds: “I like the med/ket combo because its secure, but jags are a whole other kettle of corn, so to speak. They are denser. Most of the brazilian projects use Telazol, but the high end doses mean prolonged recovery. I really worry the noose [snare] may permanently damage a more powerful cat, such as a jag. And an old jag is a high risk, so I would think about it.”

16. November 19, 2008: McCain emails Ron Thompson: “Also has Terry (Terry Johnson, Endangered Species Coord. for AZGFD) talked with you at all about snaring in the Atascosas/Tumacacoris? Where does that stand? I would love to get those snares over there open again, but will wait for the word.”

17. November 21, 2008: McCain emails his BJDP boss, Jack Childs: “Just so you know. Terry has not said a word to Ron about the trapping situation.”

McCain emails a friend: “Also the old jaguar that I had not seen for over a year, just showed up again. Now my trapping efforts may be stepped up a notch.”

18. December 2&3, 2008: McCain communicates with Woodland Park Zoo about jaguar scat collection.

19. December 10, 2008: McCain emails me about his receiving a: “package of female in estrus jag scat. I am thinking about placing it under a certain tree. You concur?” The tree he is referring to is forty plus miles away from the snaring area. I concur.

20. December 17, 2008: McCain emails Thompson about possible jag tracks found (at the forty plus mile area) and that the BJDP cameras weren’t working. “If there is ever any hope to catch him this winter, I need to keep the cameras running, and I need some funds to do that.”

McCain emails Phoenix Zoo about scat pick up and: “the scat has been distributed all over the place already. Keep your fingers crossed.”

21.December 18, 2008: Henke emails McCain that the jaguar collar is ready but he wants to add a VHF unit to the collar before sending it back.

22. December 23, 2008: McCain emails Thompson about setting a camera on a high saddle where there was lots of cat sign and “Lucero’s (male jaguar from Phoenix Zoo) scent is wafting over both sides of the ridge.”

23. January 4, 2009: McCain contacts the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, AZ about jaguar scat.

24. January 5, 2009: McCain emails Erin Fernandez (USFWS) and others that “Kirby (Bristow) and I have been planning the next trapping efforts to be focused in the east and west sides of the Atascosas.”

25. January 11, 2009: McCain receives email from Henke that jaguar collar will be shipped to him the next day. McCain responds, “Now all it (sic) gotta do is catch that cat!”

26. January 14, 2009: Bristow emails everyone on the snaring project, including McCain about the collared female lion being killed and: “I expect to get the replacement collars (3 bear 3 lion) from North Star any day now so we’ll be trapping full time again. We likely won’t start bear trapping until mid March…”

27. January 16, 2009: McCain has contact with Reid Park Zoo about scat.

28. January 19, 2009: McCain asks the Phoenix Zoo for more scat.

29. January 29, 2009: McCain emails me: “I have requested jag scat that should be here in a week or so. So, you may hold of (sic) on field work till that comes in.”

30. January 28&29, 2009: McCain and Thorry Smith email about collars coming in and McCain’s needing to show Smith where his snares in the Atascosas are located. Smith says, “Sounds like Chasa [O’Brien] is working on an EA [Environmental Assessment] in case we catch one with spots.”

31. January 29, 2009: McCain emails Thompson, “Now Kirby wants me to start trapping again…”

32. February 2, 2009: I email McCain about what he wants done when he is out of town and if the scat had arrived could I get some.

McCain emails Dr. Aguilar to inquire about “the most recent knowledge on jaguar immobilization” to “make ourselves completely prepared for the unintended event of catching a jag.” McCain also states, “I already set the snares in the most jag friendly way possible…”

McCain emails Phoenix Zoo to thank them for scat and to ask if the female jaguar is in heat.

33. February 3, 2009: Phoenix Zoo replies to McCain: “I would not have characterized the jaguar as in heat. I don’t agree with the keeper on that. McCain responds, “Off to set out some of that scat!” McCain and a BJDP volunteer checked cameras in the Tumacacoris and picked up 3 new pics of Macho B from one of the camera sites. The last pic was from Jan. 21st and Macho B was headed south, toward the snaring area.

McCain and Smith are emailed jaguar immobilization recommendations. Thorry Smith emails his thanks to Drs. Deem and Aguilar.

McCain emails family and friends a picture of Macho B retrieved that day. The email reads: “Now, some have called him geriatric in recent times. I’d like to hear them say that to his face! Look at that healthy animal!”

McCain emails AZGFD and USFWS info about new Macho B pictures.

34. February 4, 2009: Phoenix Zoo emails McCain: “I hear that Macho B has surfaced again. The female jaguar may be in estrus after all. Male is mewling at her. I asked them to collect fecal again.

Snares are activated by Smith and McCain in the Atascosa/Pajarita snaring area. I attend to all the BJDP cameras that are in the same area. McCain brought the Phoenix Zoo jaguar scat to be used in the field and at his direction it is placed in front of four BJDP cameras (one within 15 feet of an AZGFD snare) and at one snare site. A picture of Macho B is retrieved from a BJDP camera close to the border. The pic was from Jan. 12 and Macho B was heading north.

35. February 5, 2009: McCain, Smith, and Michelle Crabb document Macho B’s tracks (several weeks old) on the trap line and Smith adds a new snare close to the tracks.

McCain emails Drs. Aguilar and Deem to thank them for the drug info and, “Just to clarify things, Thorry is not trying to catch a jaguar, but he is working on a mountain lion and black bear study in an area where he may inadvertently encounter a jaguar.”

McCain emails his thesis advisor at Humboldt State University telling him of the new Macho B pictures:

“And today I found his tracks while I was helping a Game and Fish biologist get started checking my snares… We are now running snares exactly where Macho B has been in the last REDACTED. No need to talk about this at all until it happen (sic), if it ever does. Game and fish will officially have caught him inadvertently while working on the lion/bear study. The high-ups in the agency are fully aware of what is happening and we are all on the same page. The timing may be perfect for me to be out of town. Wish us luck.”

On Feb. 6th McCain leaves for Spain.

36. February 9, 2009: McCain emails new Macho B photo and track info to AZGFD and USFWS.

McCain emails his and Thompson’s friend at Texas Tech: “By the way, old Macho B is again reigning over his territory along the border. My last two days in the field last week produce (sic) another picture and fresh tracks… yes, his. Tracks on that line that I was showing Thorry.”

37. February 13, 2009: McCain thanks Henke for “getting the donated jaguar collar back to me so quickly. I also wanted you to know that we have again started trapping and that there is fresh jaguar sign in the area.” He also inquires about testing the collar.

McCain emails Thompson about the AZGFD snaring contract he is applying for seeking direction on a question, “I’ve never handled bears… only 6 months with lions”

McCain was awarded the AZGFD contract “as the apparent low, responsive, and responsible offer” on March 4, 2009. But, on March 23rd, AZGFD sent an email out to McCain and other “Large carnivore capture bidders” that “Due to recent jaguar episode, AZGFD’s Director Voyles has placed large carnivore captures on hold.”

McCain emails Smith about testing jaguar collar.

38. February 16, 2009: McCain emails Henke and Smith: ” I think that for the week long trapping periods in the area where we may capture a jag, I think we should leave that collar on. Especially given the remoteness of the area… and the once in a lifetime change (sic) to collar a AZ jag…”

39. February 18, 2009: McCain emails Henke: “I sure hope that we can get that collar on that guy. I assure you we will do our best.”

Macho B was snared this day and collared by Smith and Crabb.

40. February 19, 2009: McCain receives an email from Thompson with the subject line: “Thorry did it!” There were no other contents.

McCain emails someone whom allowed BJDP to place a camera on her property:

“I have to tell you I have pulled a hell of a fast one on the system here. I orchestrated this whole thing, including being out of the country when it happened. I chose my team (of qualified agency biologists), I set the snares and I waited till I knew what was coming. Then I placed a little of my very, very special sauce and jumped on a plain (sic). Now I am the only one with access to the data and I am sitting like the fat cat himself!”

Above is more than enough information to have charged McCain, and perhaps a few others, with conspiracy to take an endangered species, to wit, a jaguar known as Macho B. The only person to be charged with that particular violation of the Endangered Species Act was myself.

McCain’s emails concerning Macho B after his initial capture through his recapture can be found under the category, Capture. The emails include McCain delaying AZGFD to do a visual health assessment of Macho B even though he barely moved after his first day of capture. But, McCain insisted that Macho B could be on a kill and constantly compared Macho B’s behavior and activity to mountain lions. Macho B was a jaguar and there are distinct, recorded differences in the feeding behavior of mountain lions and jaguars. Unfortunately, McCain did not realize this as he knew nothing of Macho B’s behavior in any scenario and had zero experience in monitoring a radio-collared jaguar. So by the time a visual health assessment was done, it was too late. Macho B would be airlifted to the Phoenix Zoo where the vets determined the best and most humane course of action was to euthanize Macho B.


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