Whistling for the Jaguar

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

Missing Document

After reading part one of Dennis Wagner’s Macho B series in the AZ Republic (see blogroll for link) I contacted him to find out about an AZGFD document he referred to that was drafted on February 2, 2009 just sixteen days before Macho B was snared. I had never heard of this document and as a former defendant in this case that struck me as disturbing. Terry Johnson, the former Endangered Species Coordinator for AZGFD had taken “responsibility” for the document in Wagner’s article but Johnson had not turned over this document to the USFWS Special Agents (SAs) during the course of the Macho B investigation and never mentioned it. Neither did his cohorts whom he sent the document to, Bill Van Pelt and Ron Thompson of AZGFD.

Wagner supplied me the name of the missing document: “Jaguar Collaring and Monitoring in the AZ-NM Borderlands with Mexico.” I then sent a public records request to AZGFD. Below is their response and explanation for the document. Links to the document and internal AZGFD emails about the document can be found under the blogroll or by using the links provided in the text.

AZGFD Response to my public records request:

We are in receipt of your records request and this letter will serve as the Department’s response. We understand that you desire the report that Mr. Dennis Wagner referred to in the Arizona Republic series which began December 9, 2012 and ran through December 11, 2012. There was no “report” and the document referred to was never published. Mr. Wagner is inaccurate in his characterization of the document. There was a tentative (draft) funding “proposal” document that was never finalized. We have four iterations, the first of which was authored by Ms. Erin Fernandez of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and dated September 14, 2007. The email chain and the draft proposal for funding document are posted on our website in the Macho B page under “Other Relevant Documents.” This was a draft proposal generated by/for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider in anticipation of seeking funding for jaguar research along the border, for which as much as $50 million was to be made available for allocation from the Department of Homeland Security to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Note that Ms. Fernandez referred to her original 2007 version as “Internal– Draft” and commented that “Once they are finalized, they’ll be used for our discussions with DHS regarding implementation of jaguar conservation measures.” Of the Department’s three iterations, developed at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service request in late January and early February 2009 to cover three time-frame and budget alternatives by adapting Ms. Fernandez’ version, edits were done by Mr. Ron Thompson, Large Carnivore Biologist (no longer with the Department), Josh Avey, Habitat Branch Chief (no longer with the Department), and (primarily) Terry Johnson Endangered Species Coordinator (now retired). Again, however, none of the three Department alternatives was formally conveyed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and all three remain unpublished agency draft proposals to date. Ms. Fernandez original draft may well be in the federal Report of Investigation (ROI). The records package of the emails and associated documents, regarding the draft proposal for funding, you requested, are located online on our Macho B page of the Department website in the “Other Relevant Documents” section, at http://www.azgfd.gov/w_c/jaguar/OtherRelevantDocuments.htm. Look to the bottom of the page Ms. Janay Brun December 20, 2012 Page 2 of 2 for “Other Relevant Documents.” A shortcut that will go directly to the page location is http://www.azgfd.gov/MachoBRecords. Consistent with the Department’s philosophy of transparency and open government, these documents are posted online, so that all who wish to have access or view them, are able to. Please direct any further questions you have regarding these issues to me.

Respectfully, Jim Paxon Chief of Information Arizona Game and Fish Department

Mr. Paxon states that the missing document was a draft and never finalized. That it was a document to be turned into the USFWS so they in turn could submit it to the Department of Homeland Security for consideration in granting some of that $50 million “pot of gold” for jaguar research, which included collaring a jaguar. The document specifically names Macho B as the “likely” candidate for collaring and Johnson’s version includes the dates of Macho B’s detections over the years, 1996-2008. I do not believe this document was viewed as a “draft” by Fernandez, Johnson, Thompson, or Van Pelt. I believe they viewed it as their permission slip to capture and collar Macho B. Below are a few reasons why.

Reasons #1 and #2:

The day after Johnson sent the “draft” of the jaguar collaring and monitoring document Van Pelt and Thompson, both recipients of the “draft”, became aware that Macho B could be snared because he had been documented in the vicinity of the AZGFD snaring project and the snares were being opened/re-activated at that time.

Neither Van Pelt or Thompson attempted to stop the snares from being reopened/reactivated nor did they express any concern for the possibility of Macho B being snared. If Macho B’s snaring and collaring wasn’t authorized yet, why no action from either man? And where was Johnson during this time?

Reasons #3 – #7:

Why did Johnson not provide this document to the USFWS SAs? He was asked to turn over anything and everything that had to do with jaguars as he was the “lead” for his agency, AZGFD on the species. In addition, why did he never mention this document to the SAs? Why did Thompson and Van Pelt also not mention it to the SAs? And what about the “jaguar lead” for the USFWS, Erin Fernandez? She never mentioned this document and despite the SAs seizing her computer this document was supposedly never located as it was never provided to my attorney in the government’s disclosure. And why did the SAs not find the emails discussing the document or the actual document which was emailed during the course of the investigation? If there was no conspiracy among these people to intentionally capture and collar Macho B, why was there so much silence and why was this document suppressed?

I also have to wonder if this document was ever provided to McCain or Jack Childs or if they were verbally made aware of this document through a phone call?

The missing document should have been provided to the USFWS Special Agents and anyone connected with the document should have been questioned. The fact that those things did not occur leads me to believe what McCain suggested in the AZ Republic article is true; that there was a conspiracy among AZGFD and USFWS officials to capture and collar Macho B to force the funding of jaguar research along the AZ-NM borderlands with Mexico. But, I still do not believe McCain was a victim in that scenario. I’m positive that he and Jack Childs giddily decided to go along with the conspiracy. What is most disgusting is that Childs, Thompson, and Fernandez all benefitted from their conspiracy as they are apart of the DHS funded (funded by tax payers), USFWS granted, $771,000 University of AZ jaguar study. And all of these people, except McCain for the time being, are still involved in jaguar research and will most likely end up capturing, collaring, and killing another jaguar in AZ all in the name of “conservation.”

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