Whistling for the Jaguar

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

Archive for the category “Capture”

Review

Macho B freely roamed the borderlands of northern Sonora and southern Arizona for 16 years.

During the course of an illegal/illegitimate AZGFD lion and bear snaring project Macho B was trapped (the proper permits were not in place nor was the project properly vetted through environmental checklists and a legally required section 7 consultation with USFWS). The snares had been set in his known territory and reactivated after it was confirmed he was in the general area. The snare sites were picked by an AZGFD sub-contractor, Emil McCain, whom also worked as the biologist for the one and only jaguar monitoring research project in AZ and all of the U.S. An additional snare was set on the trap line by AZGFD employee, Thorry Smith, near Macho B’s tracks. And McCain, my supervisor on the jaguar research project, directed me to place jaguar scat at a snare site after I was assured there were permits (that ended up being false). And yet, AZGFD maintained that Macho B was not targeted for capture. This is curious as from high up to low down in the AZGFD power structure, people were aware that Macho B was being documented near the active snares and that there was a good chance he could be trapped. Though they all claimed they didn’t want Macho B trapped, the people responsible for his safety did nothing, and enabled his capture to occur.

Macho B was trapped in a snare for an indeterminate amount of time. While snared he broke a canine tooth down to the root exposing the nerve endings. He might have been attacked by a javelina (aka desert pig) while trapped as evidenced by the javelina tooth found embedded in his tail. He most definitely suffered hypothermia as when he was finally released from the snare and his vitals taken his temperature was four degrees lower than normal. Macho B was anesthetized with the drug Telazol. The drug knocked him out for six hours and possibly caused him to hallucinate and feel the effects of the drug at a later time (maybe days later) through the process known as re-narcing.

Groggy, with a GPS collar around his neck and bright, yellow tags punched through his ears Macho B stumbled away from the trap site. The following day he walked several miles to his future tomb. Over the next 12 days his health deteriorated, unnoticed, as the person tasked with monitoring Macho B for AZGFD, Emil McCain, constantly put off talk about anyone attempting to go in and get a visual assessment of him. By the time McCain relented and gave the GPS coordinates of Macho B’s location to AZGFD, a vet on the assessment team visually diagnosed him as suffering from renal failure. Macho B was recaptured by AZGFD and taken to the Phoenix Zoo. Because the blood work was “off the charts” with regard to his kidneys failing; the severity of his canine tooth injury; the stress of the initial capture; and the severe emphysema in his back leg rendering it almost useless, Macho B was killed/euthanized after less than two hours at the Zoo’s hospital.

AZGFD requested Macho B’s hide for “educational” purposes and the USFWS consented. And so Macho B’s final journey was to a taxidermist’s table to be skinned and stuffed, turning him into the trophy that so many involved in his capture viewed him to be.

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Day 13: Act 3: The Killing

According to Dr. Dean Rice of the Phoenix Zoo: “Cat arrived already having 2 liters of fluid; intubated on portable gas machine; in helicopter without crate, a safety concern. Macho B was picked up at the Phoenix National Guard and transported in crate to Zoo. Immediately did blood in-house analysis; kidney values “off the  scale,” not just slightly elevated. Only treatment, human or jaguar was intravenous fluid or diuresis; either a kidney transplant (none available), or routine kidney dialysis (not feasible). Situation summarized as old cat with kidney failure – problematic for short or long term case management. In less than 5 hours, 4 liters of fluid administered – cat was not dehydrated at this point. Telazol is the knock down drug of choice for the lay person. Telazol would not cause kidney failure if kidneys were healthy; any drug could aggravate kidneys already in decline. Initial blood work on arrival did not show abnormal white blood cell count (i.e. no infection in leg); leg wound was penetrating wound, air under skin, no infection observed; new wound, possibly occurred at time of capture. All 3 attending vets concurred on decision to euthanize. Zoo did not make final decision to euthanize, only the recommendation; actual decision left with AGFD and FWS. A cosmetic necropsy is a full necropsy without opening the skull. Zoo doesn’t determine cause-of-death, but was aware of blood values; diagnosis is generally determined from microscopic analysis from laboratory. Stress factor of capture is significant medical factor in addition to renal failure.”

According to Dr. Alcumbrac: “… One of the leading causes of death in all felines is renal failure… was told that Thorry took a blood sample when he captured Macho B… but the sample was of poor quality and it could not be used to determine the jaguar’s health at that time. Thought it was odd that Macho B was believed to be roaming the borderland between Arizona and Mexico for approximately 16 years without getting shot or caught in a trap and all of the sudden he gets trapped. Postulated that Macho B might have been suffering from some medical issue at the time of its initial capture that precluded the jaguar from being at the peak of its abilities, but without a medical examination at that time no one will ever know. Stated if there was a chance that McCain or Thorry might think they could inadvertently catch a jaguar, then they would be obligated to voice their concerns to their supervisors and, if the decision was made to continue trapping mountain lions and black bears, then Thorry would be responsible for knowing how to handle a jaguar if he caught one… Also stated in his professional opinion that Telazol is a bad choice to use on any animal because there is no way to counteract its effects and the drug must be processed out of the body through the kidneys and the animal has a prolonged recovery time with the drug. Stated that most of the people around the world who do a lot of captures of big cats use a combination of ketamine and medetomidine, as one part of this combination is short lived in the body and the other part can be reversed.”

From the Phoenix Zoo’s evaluation of Macho B: At 3:45 PM, ” Macho B was transferred via stretcher into the treatment room at the Phoenix Zoo hospital. He was maintained on isoflurane via anesthetic machine using a circle system… vital signs were monitored every 5-10 minutes… IV fluids were continued…

Abnormal Physical Exam Findings:

1. Mucous membrane color and capillary refill time: pale pink, CRT < 2 sec

2. Head/neck: Jugular catheter present in left jugular vein, not patent (catheter could not be withdrawn from vein)

3. Mouth: Upper left canine completely fractured into multiple pieces down to the gum line with the root canal exposed

4. Palpation (feeling an object during medical exam): Firm structure palpable mid abdomen, suspect liver or spleen

5. Integument (outer skin): Multiple abrasions on all four limbs and trunk including a few nearly healed minor abrasions around the left carpus, likely from the previous snare trap; patent (could be withdrawn) IV catheter present in left cephalic vein; severe subcutaneous emphysema of the left hip and left hind limb on both the medial and lateral aspects

6. Musculoskeletal: severe decreased range of motion in the left hip, likely associated with previously mentioned emphysema; moderate muscle atrophy of both hind limbs

7. Urogenital: very small, barely palpable bladder despite 2L of fluids given by AZ G&F prior to the arrival at the Phoenix Zoo

8. Body condition is fair to thin

9. Remainder of physical exam was within normal limits

In-house chemistry panel: BUN>180 mg/dl (normal 15-35); creatinine 15.2 mg/dl (normal 1.3-2.5); Macho B also had mild to severe elevation of bilbirubin, calcium, phosphorus, glucose, potassium, protein, and globulin.

Assessment: Multiple considerations were taken into account concerning the outcome of this case. Due to the inability to maintain a recently wild-caught jaguar on adequate IV fluids without also maintaining them under full general anesthesia, IV therapy for the severe azotemia (abnormally high nitrogen containing compounds in blood like creatinine and blood urea nitrogen=BUN) was not possible regardless of the cause of the azotemia (pre, renal, or post). Due to the severity of the broken canine tooth and the exposed root canal, it was not considered to be humane to release the animal into the wild where treatment for the exposed root canal would not be possible and analgesics would not be given as the pain and likely subsequent infection would contribute to other health problems. Other considerations discussed included the unknown cause for the severe emphysema in the hind limb as well as the animal’s lethargy prior to capture and recent weight loss/muscle atrophy. Based on all of these factors, AZ game and fish decided to humanely euthanize the jaguar rather than attempting either extended treatment at the zoo, which would have required additional anesthetic episodes to attempt partial fluid therapy and to perform the needed root canal on the damaged canine, or release back into the wild where the animal would have been without pain management or fluid therapy.”

AZGFD Deputy Director Hovatter was on a conference call with Steve Spangle of USFWS and two vets from the Zoo. Spangle agreed to the euthanization and said he would get concurrence from USFWS Southwest Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle.

Spangle emailed Hovatter: ” Redacted and redacted (the names of 2 vets, one probably being Dr. Rice) concur with the recommendation to humanely euthanize the jaguar. A sad but appropriate course of action given the hopelessly terminal nature of his condition. We’ll discuss disposition at a later time, but cosmetic necropsy is also recommended.”

Macho B was euthanized at 5:13 PM.

Day 13: Act 2: Sidelines

McCain emails Dr. Aguilar: ” Oley (sic) thinks he has septicemia (SP) from the dart wound from the original capture. He thinks this is a salvageable cat…”

Aguilar responds: “Fantastic. Lets hope they treat him, fix his teeth (good chance to do so) and get him back out stat…”

Gary Hovatter receives an email from some redacted AZGFD person: “… redacted has significant concerns about the quality of the serum (the blood was fairly hemolyzed probably due at least in part to freezing) and the potential of receiving values that are inaccurate due to effects of the hemolysis. However, redacted at the Phoenix Zoo requested that despite the hemolysis we run the Chem 20 panel. The sample will be sent to a lab in Phoenix… and we are expecting to receive results tomorrow morning… There has also been a question raised as to whether the jaguar may be experiencing side effects from slow metabolization of the tiletamine in the tileamine HCI/zolazapam HCI mixture that is telazol. Such issues have been observed in other large cats (e.g. tigers and African lions). (A side note here; tigers, African lions, leopards and jaguars are the four cats that make up the genus, Panthera, in the Felidae family) Metabolization can be particularly slow in older animals and those with any renal problems. Side effects include hallucinations and a dissociative state which could affect an animal’s movements and should disappear as the animal finishes metabolizing the drug. However, unless the side effects have prevented the animal from eating, this would not explain the potential extreme weight loss that was indicated… (another side note: Macho B’s upper left canine was broken to the root, exposing nerve endings and probably prevented him from killing/eating) I also spoke with redacted of Safe Capture International Inc. whom redacted recommended that we talk to about this same issue…”

Dr. Aguilar emails Dr. Deem: ” Things in AZ got hot and heavy with Macho B… The animal appeared extremely “wobbly” and allowed them to approach. Ole tried darting him, but the dart bounced out and the cat got away. Today they went in early, and loaded for bear… Apparently he was successfully caught and is being transported to the Phoenix Zoo as I write this. There was a lot of second guessing about the use of Telazol in an old animal (personally I have found it perfectly safe, but you know what is out there in tigers and lions). Anyhow, last report is that he may be septic from the original darting. He has a broken canine and several broken or missing molars… I have seen adverse reaction to Telazol in Asian lions and tigers (Sumatrans-bad). This is an isolated population of jaguars (about 80 strong) (side note: This is complete conjecture on Dr. Aguilar’s part. There is no documentation, that I am aware of, to support this claim.) that may be inbred. No telling. We know nothing about them. Have you ever seen the effect of a drug (any except for the long acting tranquilizers) go over 96 hours? The other vets have me questioning myself. Of Course, they make it sound like we messed up, but the animal was an incidental catch from another study, and we simply gave them a “what if” dose and approach. The animal sounds weak and exhausted, but not neurologic. Of course that is fifth hand. I will let you know as things progress. I would appreciate your input with the Telazol issue…”

I receive a phone message from McCain that Macho B has been recaptured by AZGFD and is being transported to the Phoenix Zoo for a medical evaluation.

Day 13: March 2

Act 1: The Recapture

McCain emails the owner of Bear Valley Ranch to ask, “for permission to use the Bear Valley Ranch house as a base of operations for a recapture and possible veterinary examination/work of Macho B.” McCain also mentions that Macho B’s, “health is deteriorating quickly and AZGFD will be attempting to capture him today and bring him out for a rehabilitation effort.” The BVR owner obliges.

From an AZGFD inter-office memo: ” The helicopter arrives at the BVR at 10:45 AM and personnel and capture equipment were loaded. The helicopter took off at 11:20 for last known GPS location of the Jaguar. Helicopter then began to hover over location in search of the jaguar. At 11:30 the helicopter dropped off Smith who then hiked in and was unsuccessful locating the jaguar so he radioed for the hounds to be brought in to assist. At 11:51 the houndsman and his 2 hounds were dropped off in the canyon.”

From Smith’s recounting of events: ” … the dogs struck the track. After a few moments the dogs pushed the track… and I called for the ship to back off so (redacted- it is the houndsman’s name) could hear if the dogs bayed the cat. As we moved toward the dogs the houndsman said he heard their distinct bayed/treed bark and we went toward their location. I called to the ship to approach and get ready for a shot. The houndsman was already with the dogs and Macho B when Ole shot the dart. According to the houndsman when Ole fired, the dart hit Macho B in the left rump and thinking he did it, Macho B charged him. When I arrived the dogs had him bayed under a tree and were barking but not aggressive. I was concerned by not leashing the dogs that Macho B in his state would be injured, but the houndsman’s dogs were ideal for the situation and I never saw one mouth the cat. A moment later Macho B was immobilized and I called the ship to land. I applied liquid tears to Macho B’s eyes and noticed an infection in Macho B’s rear left leg that I pointed out to Ole when he arrived. ( Smith would later comment that, ” Macho B appeared to be dragging his hind legs as he climbed a rock ledge.” He also stated, ” that something looked wrong with Macho B’s rear left leg and commented it felt bubbly; was scarred over, black in color; infected; had a small bubble wrap feel to it; but not swollen.”)

Smith: ” The houndsman and I took several pictures of one another while Ole came to meet us.”

Smith continued: ” … the stretcher was too awkward and cumbersome in the bushes… we each took a turn carrying Macho B around our necks to the ship. At the ship Ole gave fluids, and I took the temperature (102.3) and we kept Macho B in the shade. The pilot flew the houndsman and the dogs back to the staging area while Ole kept Macho B stable. When the ship returned, we put Macho B in the back and flew to the staging area where Ole prepped Macho B for the trip to the Phoenix Zoo.”

“As this occurred, the doors were put back on the ship and the ground crew (side note: this included Crabb and Thompson) got a single file look at Macho B.” According to Dr. Alcumbrac, “he administered fluids intravenously, intubated the jaguar, and kept the animal sedated with a gas anesthesia as it was transported to the Phoenix Zoo.” At approximately 1:40 the helicopter left BVR to transport Macho B to Tucson to refuel and then to continue on to Phoenix for transport to the zoo.

Day 12: March 1

Jack Childs emails McCain and Van Pelt: “What do you make of the cluster points from last night? This is what I would expect if he has made a kill. The kills I observed in the Pantanal the jaguar stayed close to the kill and did not leave it alone for the day as lions do…”

I have to interject here as FINALLY! someone acknowledges that Macho B is a jaguar, not a lion (aka puma, cougar). There are documented differences in how jaguars and lions feed. Lions tend to kill, eat, cover their kills with whatever material is available (grass, rocks, twigs, leaves, etc.) and then rest/digest nearby to repeat this eating/resting pattern until they are done feeding upon the carcass. Jaguars tend to kill and then gorge, finishing their meal in one to two dining sessions. They don’t cover their prey and tend to stay at their kill or close by until they are done eating and then move on. The experience Childs refers to in the Pantanal was a Phoenix Zoo sponsored trip for three weeks to learn about jaguars. Childs and his former hunting partner, whom also went, observed four jaguar kills. Though this is the beginning of learning about feeding behavior in jaguars it is by no means a comprehensive education. In fact, between Childs, McCain, Smith, Thompson, Van Pelt, et. al, they had ZERO experience in safely immobilizing and collaring a jaguar and successfully monitoring a jaguar, long-term, post capture. And yet, the JAGCT scientific advisory board had several biologists with such real world experience and they were never consulted during this fatal time of incessant “he must be on a kill” theorizing.

McCain responds to Childs’ email: “… This is very similar to the kill sites I have observed form (sic) the lions I collared… Also the site he is in, is a much more likely hunting/kill site that (sic) the rock pile where he has been. Also the pattern of movement prior to this cluster suggested he was hunting. I would say there is a very good chance he is on a kill… Is Thorry going back in there today?”

Van Pelt responds: “Thorry did go back in today. He was going to check the meat caches we left out…”

McCain replies: “Thanks for the updates. And a BIG thanks to you, Thorry and Kurt for going in on the ground yesterday. I am glad you found tracks and a bed site and not a sick jaguar. Hopefully Thorry can get a visual today… I am very curious to check that site where he is now after he leave (sic). In the end I am glad that we responded the way we did with the site visit. As you know I was very skeptical of doing it until the locations appeared to show the cat was moving less and less everyday, only moving downhill and spend (sic) more and more time hidden under rocks etc. When he seemed to be stationary down in the canyon bottom, I really started to think the worst case scenario. I am glad you went in and checked the site out. I think in the end it is better to act and know what is going on. And after the ten days, the animal is either OK or he is not. At that point we needed to know… I am sorry that I was unavailable and have been basically out of reach, (redacted). I am sure that coordination and communication will greatly improve once I return. However, I am now even more confident in our team.”

Meanwhile…

Smith bought more meat for Macho B and met Dr. Alcumbrac and two of his vet techs at Bear Valley Ranch. From Smith’s recounting of the day’s events: ” I directed redacted and redacted on the north slope of the canyon some distance apart so they would have a decent chance of seeing Macho B if Ole and I pushed him out in front of us before we had a look at him… Dr. Alcumbrac and I climbed up opposite sides of a high point on the south side of the canyon where I thought Macho B was laid up, but upon reaching the summit the GPS unit… said the cat’s position was away from my guess some distance to the south. Dr. Alcumbrac with dart rifle in hand motioned me to him and we approached the waypoint together. A covey of quail blew out from under us as we approached to a close distance. Then 20 m away we saw Macho B get to his feet and stumble away. He looked like his (sic) was in a stupor and I called for Ole to dart him as he was not acting right. (I want to inform readers that no arrangements had been made yet for the transport of Macho B to a medical facility or for a medical facility to receive and treat Macho B) Ole shot but the dart glanced of (sic) his upper left rump and we could see the dart spew out the ketamine/medetomidine into the air… Ole waved redacted to come across the canyon with the medical gear. Ole told me he estimated a 20% lose (sic) in body weight judging from pictures of the original capture and that it looked as though he was in the throws of renal failure. ” According to Dr. Alcumbrac: ” The jaguar looked weak and wobbly when the jaguar walked and he (Dr. Alcumbrac) thought, as per his visual observance, it was an indication of renal failure which is common in older cats. When their kidneys fail the cat is sort of ‘drunk’ from the toxins in the blood.”

Back to Smith: “Macho B walked slowly into the deep brush and after I took my eyes off him to call to Ole he was gone. I had taken the VHF beacon off of his collar to prevent him from being poached; something I’ve grown to suspect with VHF telemetry during recent projects. At this point we could not go to him using VHF telemetry but would have to wait until another satellite waypoint came in 2-3 hours from then. I called Van Pelt on the satellite phone and explained the situation and told him we would try to call Emil for the next waypoint … After some more time trying to find him in the bushes it became apparent that waiting for the next waypoint would put us into an evening capture and an all night effort. I felt it best to return and make a game plan for a better capture probability the following day… We got out in the dark and I got in contact with Gary Hovatter (Deputy Director of AZGFD) and Bill Van Pelt who along with redacted and others had begun major arrangements for the following day. We had a helicopter, a professional houndsman and plenty of qualified personnel on the ground for the next day…”

When Thorry and Dr. Alcumbrac arrived at Macho B’s location McCain sent the following email to Van Pelt and a string of redacted names: “Update! So it appears that Thorry and Ole have arrived at the site. The cat has just moved 425 m to the southeast and gained 275 feet elevation… They had apparently not arrived by the 11 AM upload, as the cat was still in the same exact spot. However, by the 2 PM upload, the cat had high-tailed it for high ground. Apparently yesterday Thorry found tracks where Macho B appeared to be moving very slowly, causing him continued concern for the animal (sic) general condition… He was not that concerned with the foot, but the fact that he seemed to be moving so slow made Thorry think about the old cat’s general condition. I hope they were able to get a visual today, but at least we know that Macho B can move out if need be and they will will (sic) know what was going on at that last site. I highly expect a kill. Lets (sic) hope so. And if it was a kill, it appears that he was on it for enough time to feed well. I think there is no harm in obtaining this peace of mind…”

Later McCain emails Childs to ask him to “push AZGFD” to use Childs’ former hunting partner if they decide to use hounds when going after Macho B the next day. He closes with: “Also I want you to know that if they feel they can quickly turn the situation around, great. If not, do not bring him into captivity to die. That is not fair for a jaguar who has reined over the Atascosas… and countless unknown wild places. ”

Childs responds that his former hunting partner (whom was also present with Childs when hounds first treed Macho B in 1996) no longer communicates with him and that the wildlife services guy that will be going in, “has more experienced hounds being a full time hunter.” Childs ends the email; “We should let Ole make the call on his chances for survival. He is obviously a sick cat and deserves to be healed and released if possible.”

Van Pelt and Hovatter have been making arrangements for the next day’s capture including: asking permission from USFWS Southwest Director, Benjamin Tuggle, for the re-capture; obtaining a helicopter and houndsman for the effort; making arrangements with the Phoenix Zoo to receive Macho B; coordinating ground personnel and delegating press/information responsibilities. Hovatter forwards the emails to Johnson, still on medical leave, to “keep him in the loop.” Hovatter also makes arrangements for, “tests that can be run with the frozen, separated blood that we have currently at Melanie Culver’s lab at U of A.” He continues: “There is some concern that a test for potential renal failure may be compromised since they need to be run on serum and freezing of whole blood causes lysing of the blood cells which can interfere with the tests. However, Melanie has indicated that the blood and serum had already separated before freezing (though remained in the same tube), so the test may work…”

In an internal AZGFD email Van Pelt or Hovatter writes in part: “The thought is Macho B may have had a pre-existing condition prior to capture, and hopefully, redacted will have more information for us in the morning. This will assist the Phoenix Zoo in determining the most effective treatment prior to the arrival of Macho B. The top priority will be to stabilize the animal… Once the animal is stabilized, we need to discuss what options to do with the animal next. Redacted knows of some expertise care for Macho B we will want to weigh very carefully…”

Day 11: February 28

McCain emails Van Pelt and Smith: “Better News. So as of 5 AM your time, Macho B was 200 meters to the south and a little to the east. He has gained 200 feet elevation! He is close to the spot where I has (sic) advised as an observation point. May want to re-huddle??…”

The second update reads: “Ok, more news! At 7:50 another point came in. He is moving south up a ridge. Great.”

And four hours later another update from McCain: “We have another data point from 12 noon. The animal is moving up a ridge to the south. He is 230 meters form (sic) the stream bottom and 200 vertical feet. I will try calling the ground team right now with the location and a possible observation point.”

According to Van Pelt he had become frustrated with McCain after his last Macho B update the previous day, “because once again Emil started discussions and devised a plan to go in to see Macho B without calling the Department lead.” So Van Pelt called, “multiple people (Larry Voyles, and several redacted names) and coordinated a slightly different party to go in for a look see.” Johnson (who was on medical leave at the time) also expressed frustration with McCain. According to him, “he was concerned that McCain and Smith were reluctant to asses the jaguar and that they were going to Thompson for advice.” He was further bothered, “that they were making decisions and field assessments about the recapture of Macho B.” Johnson stated, “It’s not their fucking call.” Johnson thought McCain, “was stalling because he missed out on everything (the initial capture) and wanted to assess the jaguar himself when he returned to Arizona on March 9.”

According to Van Pelt: “On February 28 they (Van Pelt, Smith, and Kurt Bahti of AZGFD) arrived at Bear Valley Ranch between 1230-1300 and were at the mouth of the canyon with Macho B around 1500. We found tracks in the bottom about 150 yards up.” Regarding the tracks, Smith stated, “One set looked like the animal was moving very slowly, with the rear track not reaching the front track.” Smith said he, “felt the animal was not moving right.”  According to Van Pelt: “There was no evidence of a kill. Kurt had the only GPS unit in the group. Thorry had forgotten his in the truck, which I thought was peculiar considering this was the only way we were going to find Macho B ” (the GPS points from Macho B’s collar would have been entered into the hand-held GPS unit to guide the team to Macho B’s location). The men had split up to locate Macho B and to look for the possible kill. No kill or evidence of one was found though Bahti thought he had located a bedding site that could have been Macho B’s. The team did not got a visual on Macho B either. Van Pelt stated, ” We stayed in the area until 1700 putting out the meat Thorry brought.”

Smith stated he was the first to arrive at their rendezvous point and “noticed a large group of illegal immigrants coming out of the canyon to the south.” Either Bahti or Van Pelt arrived next and they “were approached by an illegal immigrant asking what we were doing.” The team made it back to their vehicles and left Bear Valley. Van Pelt and Smith went to eat in Nogales and that is when Smith told Van Pelt he had called an AZGFD contract vet, Ole Alcumbrac, and that he was driving down to assist with Macho B. It was then decided that the next day the food caches left for Macho B would be checked and another visual would be attempted.

According to Dr. Alcumbrac he had “received a phone call from Smith about Macho B. Smith inquired if it was normal if the jaguar was not making large ground movements, but was localized in a small area.” Dr. Alcumbrac replied, “that either the jaguar had a large food supply at that location or Macho B had medical issues.” He then, ” suggested that he travel to the area and they attempt to recapture the jaguar to determine what was wrong with the animal.” According to Dr. Alcumbrac, “Thorry was concerned with disturbing the animal, but eventually agreed…”

Day 10: February 27

McCain emails Van Pelt an update on Macho B : ” Movements are getting smaller and we are receiving fewer and fewer locations… I am getting more concerned. I just spoke with Ron (Thompson). I want him and Thorry to go in and drop some food… I hope they can lace the meat with strong antibiotics and some anti-inflammatories (sic). They will also try to get visuals etc. I know you were in favor of this earlier so I assume you will not mind that I have basically informed them to proceed with the plan a few days earlier… We all just kind of agreed to just get on with it. He did ask to make sure you were on board. I said you had been and that I had been discouraging you. Well, now I am with you…”

Van Pelt responds: ” Spoke with Thorry and we will be going in tomorrow to check out the situation with Macho B. Please send me the coordinates for Macho B’s last known location, the location where we think he might have laid up on a kill, and the place where he got a drank (sic) of water. I have spoken with Steve Spangle (USFWS) and he has concurred for us to go in a (sic) take a look around and ascertain the situation. Thorry will be coming to my house in the morning and we will be driving down.”

Day 9: February 26

1. I email McCain that parts for BJDP’s ATV have come in and it will be worked on the following week. McCain replies: “Great! So, I hear you will be picking up the shit soon. Lets keep it our (sic) of Macho B’s way for right now…”

The shit McCain was referring to is jaguar scat. The following day I was supposed to travel to Sonoita and pick up jaguar scat from McCain’s house and check out the puma’s kill sites. I didn’t. Instead, I hiked to the entrance of the canyon where Macho B was and left him steaks on a sunlit rock above the canyon floor (so he could eat in peace if he found them and not be disturbed by drug smugglers who used the canyon as one of their travel routes).

2. McCain emails Vanpelt, Johnson, and a whole string of redacted recipients: “Hello All, Again today there has not been much action from Macho B. He has been held up again in the same spot for the last 24 hrs. There were several locations that were not received, which means he was likely in a cave or under an overhang. It did appear as though he did go dwon (sic) by the creek.”

Macho B was actually in the same area he had been in since day 2 for a total of 168 hours, not 24. The above email was the only one from this day regarding Macho B. I imagine phone calls were being made instead.

Now, what AZGFD was telling the public.

From Feb. 19 AZGFD press release:

” The male cat was incidentally captured yesterday in an area southwest of Tucson during a research study aimed at monitoring habitat connectivity for mountain lions and black bears. While individual jaguars have been photographed sporadically in the borderland area of the state over the past years, the area where this animal was captured was outside of the area where the last known jaguar photograph was taken in January. ”

The distance between the camera site where Macho B’s photo was picked up on Feb. 4 (the day the snares were activated) and the snare that captured him is about two miles. Both locations were in the same mountain complex. The fact that Macho B’s tracks were found on the trap line where he was eventually snared was left out. In addition, there is nothing “incidental” about placing snares, which indiscriminately catch any animal that walks through, in known jaguar habitat, in an area where Macho B had recently been detected through photos and track identification, and where an additional snare was built and activated by the detected jaguar tracks. That is targeting Macho B for capture, not “incidentally” catching him.

From Feb. 26 AZGFD press release:

“Every indication is that Macho B is doing well and has recovered from his capture and collaring,” says Terry Johnson, endangered species coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.”

Macho B has barely moved in 7 days. Though McCain consulted with Thompson about his concerns regarding Macho B, for some reason he didn’t consult a vet with regard to the re-narcing concern of Telazol or just with Macho B’s overall behavior post-immobilization. He had consulted with two highly respected vets pre-capture, yet didn’t seek their expertise post-capture.  There is also no indication that anyone at AZGFD contacted a vet.

Day 8: February 25

1. McCain emails Ron Thompson updating him on Macho B and to ask for his, “advice and involvement in any field actions in my absence.” In part McCain writes: ” As you will see from the string of emails below, our cat has not moved as much as we would like to see and there was one point when I began to get pretty worried. He has started moving a little again, but nothing very big at all. I know Bill (vanpelt) and Terry (johnson) have begun to get some negative feedback on the size of the collar etc. and therefore there is a desire to go in and document that he is ok and search a possible kill site. I would like the peace of mind in knowing that he is ok, but I also want to give him the time he needs to fully recover form (sic) the traumatic events of the capture without further bothering him in any way whatsoever… I have known this cat to use this exact area more extensively that (sic) anywhere else in the past, including when he was chased by hounds. Anyway, please read the below emails and give me your thoughts. I do not want to do anything stupid-just to counter a few negative, uneducated voices from the public… But if you feel that we should go in and try to get a visual on him and maybe search some of the bedding sites, please let me know. I will greatly appreciate your expertise and insight from your long history working with cats and captures and field work…”

Thompson responds: ” Like the Nike commercial says: Just do it. Send your prey mortality sheet and we will hopefully fill it out. Each cat is different, but they all act the same after a capture-they stay localized until they feel they can defend themselves… By the way, (redacted) has put on and taken off about 50 North Star collars and has observed no ill affects (sic) of the collar. I would be happy to assist (redacted). Sounds like you have a plan, so let’s implement it.”

McCain replies: “Thanks for your support… I feel it is a little too soon to go in. He is still only a couple hundred meters away. I just don’t really see what we gain by going in so soon, other than give Bill something to tell the press. Ok (redacted) experiences should be communicated with Bill and Terry. They are getting beaten up by the press and the animal lovers. Second, I do think he is ok, but I would like him to have all the time he needs to move on… What is your thought? Is there any need to go in now, say for a visual? Or should we give him some more time?”

Thompson responds: “Peace of mind is an elusive thing… You have a live critter to learn from. So what are your objectives? If we go in for a visual he will have a 99.9% chance of knowing we are there before we might see him… If you are interested in kill data than the kill site is probably getting older. I use (sic) to keep a telemetry form for sheep and lions that had a column “disturbed by tracker.” As humans we are great at impacting our study animals to the point that their welfare is negatively impacted… You are in this for the long haul and probably through the end of his life span. Everyone needs to accept that. I know your information will lead to other jaguars. He just has to live long enough to let you discover them. Learn all you can from him that you can. Do it at his biological pace and to hell with all those who sit in their ivory towers…”

McCain replies: “Your words are well received. Please stand by until he moves out a little.”

2. I email McCain to let him know Childs will be helping me with the map technology in order to locate the Patagonia lion’s kill sites. I ask: “Whom am I working for when I check the kills; BJDP or AZGFD? Is there compensation for mileage, time? Am I to fill out the form you just sent at each kill? Some of those kill sites are months old…” I end the email with, “How is Mr. B?”

McCain replies: “… Ultimately, this diet study is part of BJDP. Keep your time and mileage as usual. Even though this is looking at puma kills, it is training for the jaguar monitoring… Mr. B is still laying low. He may have had a kill already, but he is still not moving too far… Will keep you posted.”

3. McCain emails Blake Henke of North Star: “… I am glad you understood my concern and I am glad to hear you too are keeping an eye on this cat. We are still a little concerned with the generally small movements so far. Especially for this cat, which we have documented traversing over 20 miles in a night… I prefer not to bother him until there is an obvious reason. Thanks for the clarification on the gaps in locations…”

4. Vanpelt emails McCain for an update: ” I have not heard from you regarding Macho B so hopefully things are going okay. I saw (redacted) earlier and he said he had spoken with you and you had told him Macho B was in the same area. We are going to hold off going in to the area until next week. Need to make sure we have all the equipment (satellite phone, other collar etc.). If you could please send me an update so I can feed the rest of the chain I would appreciate it.”

McCain replies: “Today there has not been much action from Macho B. He has been held up again in the same spot for the last 24 hrs. I just spoke with Ron Thompson as he has had considerable experience with cats, especially mountain lions, that have been snared, immobilized, collared and then monitored. Ron’s experience, and that of his close colleagues, is as good as it gets on this subject. His impression, and I totally agree, is that these cats will hold up for some time after a snare capture when they have a sore foot. They will not move on until that foot feels good enough to travel. The fact that Macho B has made several 100-200 meter moves… means he is doing fine… Regardless, Ron assures me that 7-9 days in the same spot is not a big deal for a large carnivore and nothing to raise major concern… After speaking with Ron and thinking back on the behavior of several lions I have collared, I strongly believe we should give him his time and not bother him… We will not do him any good to bother him there, and I don’t quite understand what our objectives would be that could justify further harassing him…”

Day 7: February 24

1. McCain emails Johnson/Van Pelt: “Well I hate to say this but our cat is not moving. He has been in the same spot for 20 hours without moving. We only obtained 3 locations over that time (should have been more like 7), so either he is in a spot with very poor satellite coverage or he is shifting slightly in and out of the signal coverage… One thing that has me a little concerned is that each location also indicated if the collar is moving or not moving; these last three locations are not moving. I am not sure exactly what “moving vs not moving” means, but I have put in an inquiry to North Star… Please stand by. I will let you all know.”

2. In a follow-up email several hours later McCain gives an update: “Another point just came in at 3:49 AM your time. Still no movement, collar still reading not moving. That make (sic) at least 24 hours with no know (sic) movement. This should be prime time for him to be moving. Expect another update as soon as the next point comes in… and probably some phone calls.”

Van Pelt responds: “I believe we should send some people with the GPS coordinate for the collar for a look see.”

3. McCain gives another update: “Better news! Our cat has moved exactly 100 meters down slope and as of 7 AM was in the bottom of the canyon. Again the message says there is no movement. I am calling North Star right now to see what the hell that means. But, the good news is that we have some movement. I think there is no need to worry for the time being…”

Van Pelt responds: “Call me paranoid but I still think a look see is in order… In general the movements are still small in nature. My two cents worth.”

McCain responds: “Yes the movements are small-very small for this critter… My first thought is to get a visual, but I tend to want to wait a bit. We are dealing with an old animal who went through a stressful time. If he is dead, there is no hurry to get to him. However, if he is alive and still slowly recovering, I don’t think we need to further stress him at all. The only positive I can see in visiting the site is possibly trying to get a high powered antibiotic/and or anti inflammatory to him and possibly some food… There is also a possibility that he has been on a kill. When I go back and look at everything all together, he was slowly traveling up a steep ridge, then he suddenly dropped down a small steep draw to a dense patch of cover, where he spent over 24 hrs (a perfect place to drag a kill)… And now he has come out and dropped down to the bottom… I happen to know there is a good herd of javelina in that area… What do you guys think?”

Van Pelt responds: “… good point about the kill. Then if we follow your protocol, we should go in tomorrow to document it. I think it is important to document feeding as quickly as possible. This will quiet the critics about the collar inhibiting movement.”

McCain volleys back: “Under my protocol, we wait until the cat has moved out of the area… I just do not want to push him unless we have a good reason.”

Johnson chimes in: “Agreed. Let’s wait for a good reason.”

I would like to remind readers that the above email participants, along with Childs, had previously agreed that if Macho B died, the area would be treated as a crime scene.

4. Another update from McCain: “Ok New point just came in. He has now moved another 100 meters. This time straight up hill and to the northeast. Again the signal says he is not moving… I can now only assume he is more or less ok. I would hold off on going in there until he clears the area, as I think this is about the best possible place for him to peacefully recovering (sic). No need to bother him at this point.”

5. A BJDP volunteer emails McCain questions about the collaring of Macho B including, “Did AZ Fish and Game really want Macho B collared, or are they just playing along after the fact?” The volunteer also remarks about the capture, “What a stroke of well planned luck!” McCain responds in part: “AZGFD is totally stoked. They did say they would have never giving (sic) us permission to do it, but are very glad we did… We plan on immediately starting an indepth diet study, and I plan to have BJDP visit each and every possible kill site…”

6. McCain gives Van Pelt and Johnson another update: “Our cat appears to be doing fine… As of about 1 PM he had moved across the slope to the east another 80 meters… Once he clears out of this general area, we will have to spend a day looking around for sure. Maybe my first day back in the states… I have been in communication with (redacted) who has been talking with (redacted). They are both available until friday and ready to make a trip into the site to check him out. They are currently standing by. Also, I spoke with North Star and have learned a lot about how the collar works. It turns out the moving/not moving component is not terribly useful for a situation like this. It is also noteworthy that our collar does NOT have a mortality signal as I thought it did…”

The redacted names from the above email are most likely Smith and Thompson based on their involvement with Macho B’s recapture and future communications with McCain.

Johnson replies to McCain’s update: “Absolutely fantastic! Well, except for that part about the mortality signal. That complicates things a little. LOL!”

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