Whistling for the Jaguar

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

Janay Brun, Part 2

Third week in August 2010: It was a surreal moment for me to sit down at a very long conference table in one my lawyer’s offices and open the first of six extra-large binders full of thousands of pages accumulated because of the investigation I initiated. Even more so because I was about to begin contributing to my own  defense as an honorary legal assistant. As I spent the next week reading the investigation pages I was struck with all the evidence there was for charging other people with crimes (For the USFWS SAs monitoring this blog I can say that because a lot of that evidence was provided in my FOIA request ). What the investigation proved about me was what I had said from the beginning; that I had placed jaguar scat at the direction of my boss, Emil McCain. I had told Tony Davis of the AZ Daily Star and the USFWS SAs that I felt responsible in Macho B’s death because he was snared where I had placed scat at McCain’s direction. It wasn’t until I read Smith’s AZGFD Garrity interview in April 2010, right before I was charged, did I learn that another snare had been built and activated on the trap line, without scat, and Macho B would have been captured there if the snare hadn’t been tampered with.

I consistently used the word “mindless” to describe what I was thinking when I followed McCain’s directive. Today, I view it slightly different as I can remember now that McCain and I were friends, we had worked together for three years, and I trusted him at the time. I never asked McCain or our boss, Jack Childs if I was on BJDP’s Endangered Species permit. I didn’t find out I wasn’t until preparing for my trial. I never asked them if they had a permit for the jaguar scat that they first began using in 2004. Again, it wasn’t until preparing for trial that I found out they didn’t.

In October 2008 McCain called me to ask for advice on where to place snares based on BJDP camera photos of lions and bears because I had seen all the pictures as I was responsible for entering them into the BJDP photo log. I began to give him a few suggestions but then he focused me on the Atascosa camera sites. I gave him a few sites where bears and lions had been photographed and then he brought up Penasco Canyon. He wanted a snare in that canyon in case a new jaguar came in to take over Macho B’s territory if he truly was dead (we hadn’t seen his tracks or photographed him in a year). I didn’t ask him then if he had permits or permission or if a goal of the snaring project was to capture a jaguar. He was my supervisor and if he was talking about snaring a jaguar then he had his bases covered.

On February 4, 2009 when I met McCain and Smith to check BJDP cameras I thought Smith was just along so McCain could show him the area and where the snares were located. I wasn’t told when the snares were going to be opened. McCain and Smith both talk about this in their interviews about “showing” or being “shown” the snare sites on this day. In fact, when we all first met up this morning Smith was talking about how tired he was because he had waited at AZGFD headquarters until late the previous night to pick up the collars for the snaring project but they didn’t arrive. So they didn’t even have lion and bear collars this day.

When we went to the first camera/snare site and I realized Smith was opening the snare I don’t remember any words or discussion about Macho B. It was just obvious that Macho B was being targeted for capture. McCain had just picked up the three new pictures of him the day before, on the last one Macho B was headed this way, south. The only collar they had was the donated jaguar collar. And McCain had brought jaguar scat with him this day and had given it to me to place in the field. You don’t put jaguar scat at cameras or a snare and hope it lures a coyote, skunk, or black bear. Now aside from the personal, ethical, and moral issues which I’ve discussed in this blog and my essay, Truth and Consequences, legally I had no idea what I was being asked to do could be an alleged violation of the Endangered Species Act. This was my direct supervisor, whom I trusted, telling me to do something. It never entered my mind that he was asking me to do something that wasn’t above-board. And if it wasn’t, I didn’t know Smith, but I couldn’t imagine him going along with it and not saying anything. In fact, I don’t remember Smith asking about the scat or questioning it’s use. As I’ve said before and told the USFWS SAs and the Assistant U.S. Attorney, I asked McCain questions about snaring Macho B, his age, and his health. As an after thought, I asked if there were permits and my supervisor told me, “yes.”

There was talk this day about jaguar captures McCain had been apart of; immobilizing drugs for lions and a few comments about jaguars; jaguars breaking their teeth in captures, and a few more discussions that I interpreted as McCain prepping Smith for a jaguar capture. There was no conspiracy talk like, “lets keep this between us,” or “don’t tell anybody about what we’re doing today” or “what happens in Penasco Canyon stays in Penasco Canyon.” The one questionable thing I remember being said was when I asked what the protocols were for alerting AZGFD that Macho B was in the area and Smith replied, “AZGFD doesn’t want to know if a jaguar is around until after the snares are closed or a jaguar is caught.” McCain and Smith both kind of laughed and then changed the subject. I didn’t know if Smith made that up, was it his belief, was it said by his supervisor, or did he hear it from somewhere? I thought it had to do with plausible deniability because AZGFD hadn’t run the capture by all the members on the Jaguar Conservation Team. But if it was a legit comment someone from AZGFD had obviously given these guys the go ahead to snare despite Macho B’s presence. I didn’t think they really weren’t going to tell anyone in AZGFD and in fact McCain emailed USFWS and AZGFD about Macho B’s detections (several of those email recipients were aware of the snaring project) and AZGFD’s Ron Thompson and Bill Van Pelt were made aware that Macho B could be snared.

As I told the USFWS SAs I didn’t know what the whole intent behind the AZGFD snaring project was. By the virtue of AZGFD hiring McCain for the snaring project were they after a jaguar? Or, because they allowed McCain to set snares in known jaguar territory and leave them open after Macho B was detected in the area, plus the availability of the jaguar collar, it all seemed to add up to me that a jaguar capture was on someone’s radar and wish list. McCain had even talked about snaring a jaguar back in October. But, it wasn’t until Davis went to McCain with my statements and McCain outright lied about the use of scat did I realize something wasn’t right, most likely in a legal sense, and that was furthered when Davis and Stellar told me that it was questionable if AZGFD had a permit to intentionally capture a jaguar. As I wrote to a friend in an email during this time: “Apparently, Game and Fish only had a permit for an ‘accidental take’ of a jaguar during any other field study. With the element of scat and a photograph in the area that implies intent and there was no permit issued for Macho B. Thus violation of Endangered Species Act. If you know any good juju chants, now is the time to say them.”

So at this point, April 1, 2009, I believed McCain was a deceitful, evil mastermind that set up Macho B’s illegal capture and that is the prism I viewed him through for the next several years.

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