Whistling for the Jaguar

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

Emil McCain, part 3

First “Use Immunity” Interview

McCain’s first “use immunity” interview was held at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tucson, AZ with his lawyer present on January 15, 2010. Quoting from the Details of Investigation Report provided in my FOIA request: “McCain was given “use immunity” with the understanding that his statements could not be used against him in a legal proceeding unless his statements were later proven false.”

During this interview McCain lied to the USFWS Special Agents and the Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) committing a felony, or actually several, if each lie equated to one charge.

A few “false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements” made by McCain:

McCain denied knowing anything about scat at the snares stating, “the subject of placing scat at the snares never came up with Janay.” At the first camera/snare site McCain claimed he used skunk scent near the camera and was unsure if I placed scat at the camera but thought I did. McCain also said he “was pretty sure” Smith knew we placed scat at one camera (the camera two miles south of the snares), but was not sure if Smith was aware of the scat placement at other cameras. When asked if scat was placed at the snare site where Macho B was eventually captured McCain responded, “Not to my knowledge.” McCain also claimed that he had always discouraged using snares.

Second “Use Immunity” interview, May 3, 2010

Again with his lawyer present. McCain stated that he had, “dodged the questions asked of him previously.” I guess “dodged” is the good ol’ boy word for “lied.”

McCain begins by implicating his “boss” on the snaring project, AZGFD bear and lion biologist, Ron Thompson in encouraging McCain to snare a jaguar. According to McCain, he had a phone conversation with Thompson and Thompson told him, “I want you to put those snares in the very best locations. Do you know what I mean?” To McCain, “this was a disguised, but clear direction to capture a jaguar, but not enough to get REDACTED (either Thompson or McCain) in trouble.”

McCain stated that after Macho B’s picture from August 2008 was retrieved from a BJDP camera in November he hesitated informing AZGFD and USFWS about the photo until he spoke with Thompson. McCain told Thompson, “This thing (Macho B) is here” and Thompson supposedly said, “Nothing to worry about – Legitimate state run study.” McCain then asked Thompson if the AZGFD had a permit for a jaguar capture and Thompson “assured him there was an incidental capture permit; Emil had a jaguar telemetry collar; and he (McCain) was working for the AZGFD.”

McCain also said that when the jaguar collar was returned to him in January 2009 after being refurbished “AZGFD really wanted the collar to be placed on a jaguar.”

On February 3, 2008 when McCain and a BJDP volunteer retrieved three new pictures of Macho B at a camera site north of the AZGFD snaring area McCain said he called his parents and Jack Childs to inform them of the photographs. He did not recall contacting Smith about the pictures or having the should we/shouldn’t we (see post of same name) discussion about opening snares the following day in the area Macho B was headed to based on his last photo. McCain said after he sent out the notification of Macho B’s detections to AZGFD and USFWS that night he “realized there was a possibility the jaguar could be caught.” Smith later told him that their boss, AZGFD Research Branch Chief, Chasa O’Brien “was working on a permit in case the jaguar was captured.”

On February 4, 2009 McCain said he gave jaguar scat to me and I was “expected to place it at BJDP cameras.” Again, McCain stated at the first camera/snare site he was unaware if I placed the scat, but thought I did. He goes on to say he was unsure if Smith knew about scat at the cameras (now its all the camera sites) but was “blind if he didn’t see” scat placed at the first AZGFD snare in Penasco Canyon. McCain claimed he told me to place it there. McCain also said he directed me to place scat at the second snare. He went from no scat at any of the snares to scat at all the snares.

For the record: At the first AZGFD snare site in Penasco Canyon the only person who was present was Smith (in Smith’s “use immunity” testimony he states he went to the first snare in Penasco alone and activated it by himself) and he had not been given any jaguar scat. McCain had given me the container of scat to carry this day and I did not give any of it to Smith. McCain and I left Smith to activate the first snare on his own and proceeded down the canyon so McCain could open the second snare. Before I left McCain at the second snare and continued down to the BJDP camera site to check/reset the camera, McCain asked me to save some scat for a snare. After I tended to the camera, I met Smith and McCain back at McCain’s snare and we then backtracked up the canyon to the last snare site. Here, McCain directed me to place the remaining scat out. This was the only snare site in Penasco Canyon where scat was placed on this day.

But according to McCain, he now had jaguar scat placed at all the AZGFD snare sites, including the second snare he opened by himself. He also says that at the third and last snare he didn’t direct me to place the scat but instead I asked him if I should place the scat and he said, “yes.” McCain told the USFWS SAs and the AUSA his thoughts about placing scat at the snares, “It can’t hurt, we got it, we’re here, let’s throw it out there.”

The next day when Macho B’s tracks were found on the snare line, McCain said he sat down with Smith and Crabb for about: “a thirty to forty-five minute discussion” where he told them, “there was a pretty good chance they may catch the jaguar because it was using the area.” They apparently discussed the “AZGFD capture permit, drugs needed, jaguar capture protocol, and the need for a dart rifle (Smith would leave the next day to obtain the rifle).” McCain said, “No one told him to stop or don’t do this.” Later McCain told Thompson about the possibility of capturing Macho B and then they had a discussion about whether Smith was a competent enough animal handler for a jaguar capture.

McCain admitted that he and Smith agreed to fabricate a story after I came forward with allegations of scat use in the vicinity of the snares. McCain said he went back to the area and removed all signs of scat but didn’t see any at the snare sites. The USFWS SAs told him they found scat at the snare/capture site and forensics confirmed it was jaguar scat (the USFWS SAs didn’t find the scat the first time they looked either). McCain then suggested I planted it, something Smith also claimed.

In reference to possibly catching a jaguar (Macho B) McCain told the USFWS SAs and AUSA: “If this happens, let it happen. I wanted that thing caught – absolutely.”

McCain’s third “use immunity” interview, May 11, 2010

Again with his attorney present, McCain tried to keep all the different versions of the stories he had told over the past year straight. On this day, he has Smith watching him separate two batches of jaguar scat from the Phoenix Zoo on Feb. 4, 2009. He now tells Smith at the second BJDP camera site to “look how decayed” the jaguar scat placed there at a prior trip looked (this is a different camera site from the one McCain had referenced in his first interview). At the first snare in Penasco Canyon (the one that Smith went to and activated alone) McCain now doesn’t remember who placed scat at the snare. At the second snare site McCain now asks me for scat and at the third snare site, where all three of us are together,  I supposedly ask McCain, “Do you want scat here too?” and he replies, “sure.” McCain also states, “Smith did not question or discuss the use of scat and thought it was possible Smith did not know it was being placed at the snares.”

McCain said he got the idea of placing jaguar scat at the snares when we entered Penasco Canyon. And his reason for placing it was to increase the odds of a jaguar capture. McCain also said he asked Thompson what if they caught the jaguar and Thompson supposedly responded: “AZGFD had permits and, if he gets caught – he gets caught.”

McCain told the USFWS SAs and the AUSA:

If it was not an intentional capture attempt, I don’t want to be there.

On May 14, 2010 McCain pled guilty to “violating the Endangered Species Act for his involvement in the placement of jaguar scat or directing another to place jaguar scat at the snares in an effort to capture a jaguar.”

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