I received an email from Ron Thompson recently and have embedded it below in this post. Thompson was McCain’s supervisor/confidante/mentor on the AZGFD lion and bear snaring project and is currently employed on the tax payer funded University of Arizona jaguar study.
His message was just too bizarre so I had to share it.
Though I have seen the whole, un-redacted investigation file of Macho B’s case, legally I could only report on this blog what was included in my redacted Freedom of Information Act request. I had requested the whole investigation file and I received pretty much all of it. This blog is by no means the entire story and I am doubtful the full version will ever be known. Close to 98% of what is on this blog I discovered as a defendant in this case preparing for trial.
Just this past December I learned through the AZ Republic’s series on Macho B about a document that originated with USFWS “Jaguar Lead,” Erin Fernandez and was re-drafted by AZGFD’s Endangered Species Coordinator, Terry Johnson just 16 days before Macho B was captured. This document was a “draft” shared between USFWS and AZGFD that outlined a financial plan to capture and collar a jaguar with Macho B cited as the likely candidate. The “draft” was completed in time for a March 2009 deadline to submit proposals to the Department of Homeland Security for a chance at acquiring part of the $50 million mitigation funding or “pot of gold” as many AZGFD officials referred to it. This document was never turned over or talked about to the USFWS Special Agents in charge of the Macho B investigation and therefore, neither my attorney or I knew it existed. I believe this document could have been beneficial in a Motion to Dismiss that was submitted by my attorney so I am currently looking into any legal recourse I may have for AZGFD and USFWS suppressing evidence in a federal criminal investigation. And because of this suppressed document I seriously have to question how many other documents were suppressed and what else did the USFWS Special Agents fail to discover and investigate.
Currently, Emil McCain is claiming victimhood in the Macho B case while at the same time admitting to whoring out the truth and federal laws in exchange for being wined and dined and promised future employment by former AZGFD biologist and current University of Arizona jaguar researcher, Ron Thompson (see AZ Republic series, parts 1-3 under blogroll). When McCain directed me to place jaguar scat at the BJDP cameras and near the AZGFD snare on February 4, 2009 I believed he was a legit researcher whom had permission from AZGFD, USFWS, & BJDP to attempt to capture and collar Macho B. After Macho B was collared and McCain and Childs did not correct AZGFD’s statements that Macho B’s capture was “accidental” I became suspicious. Then after I contacted Tony Davis of the AZ Daily Star to tell him Macho B’s capture was definitely not accidental and McCain’s reaction was to attack and defame my character with his words supplemented by a script his father provided, I thought I had been duped by someone I trusted. It was at this point I considered him to be some evil, master-mind. When I read the discovery of my case while preparing for trial it became clear that McCain had intent to capture and collar Macho B all on his own and this intent was encouraged and fostered directly by Thompson (AZGFD), Johnson (AZGFD), Smith (AZGFD), Childs (BJDP), and indirectly by Van Pelt (AZGFD), O’Brien (AZGFD) and Fernandez (USFWS). Now, I just view McCain as a sociopath; adamant about taking zero responsibility for his actions (he has a history of breaking laws, maiming and killing jaguars) and even incapable of viewing any wrongdoing he has done as wrong. He always chooses the victim card as his defense and his new version of that is curious as he waited years to shift blame from me as a liar to Ron Thompson as his pimp. Since he suspiciously leaves Childs out of the equation I am wondering if Childs is still of some use to McCain? Perhaps Childs is dusting off a seat at the “jaguar conservation” table for McCain when his probation is over in two years?
To date, AZGFD has not been held accountable for violating the Endangered Species Act by illegally capturing Macho B during the course of an illegal lion and bear research project which had not been properly vetted and was done without the correct permits and without authorization from the USFWS. AZGFD has also not been held accountable for allowing their sub-contractor, Emil McCain to dictate when a visual health assessment would occur after Macho B was captured and had not moved for days. AZGFD deferred to McCain though he had no knowledge or experience in monitoring a jaguar, was not a vet, and constantly referenced mountain lion behavior to define Macho B’s behavior, though Macho B was obviously a jaguar. So because of McCain’s ineptitude and inexperience Macho B wasted away for twelve days and by the time someone with actual vet experience got to him he was diagnosed with irreversible kidney failure and killed. AZGFD has also not been held accountable for high-risk snaring protocols. Snares were only checked once a day, in the morning. Snares were placed in active human and drug smuggling corridors putting captive animals and perhaps humans at risk. Snares were activated during a time of year when it can snow one day and be seventy plus degrees and sunny the next, thus risking hypo and hyperthermia (Macho B was hypothermic) to the captive animals. The area was also inhabited by diverse species and any animal held captive in a snare could have been attacked by another animal as possibly evidenced by the javelina tooth found embedded in Macho B’s tail. And then the actual personnel and handling protocols for a jaguar capture went beyond negligent. Smith and Crabb had no vet experience, barely any wild cat experience, they didn’t even have the presence of mind to clean the dart wound on Macho B’s leg though Smith pulled the tranquilizer dart out himself. This same general area on Macho B’s leg is where the subcutaneous emphysema was located during the necropsy and was cited as one of the factors contributing to the decision to euthanize him. And AZGFD obviously has not been held accountable for lying to the public about their agency’s role in Macho B’s capture and health decline just like none of their personnel were ever charged or prosecuted for their roles despite the evidence.
USFWS still has “Jaguar Lead” Erin Fernandez in their employ and she continues to be involved in jaguar work despite her own agency recommending her for prosecution in the Macho B case. USFWS continues to be a partner with AZGFD in jaguar conservation allowing AZGFD to remain a lead agency in the “effort.” USFWS also covered for AZGFD when it became abundantly clear that AZGFD did not have the right permits to capture Macho B, no matter what the circumstances, and amended AZGFD’s permits for them a year after Macho B’s death to include pages of language authorizing AZGFD to capture and collar a jaguar. And as evidenced in this blog, the USFWS Special Agents in charge of the Macho B investigation didn’t exactly do a thorough or aggressive job.
Next are the empty words of AZ Congressman Grijalva. He requested USFWS lead in the investigation and then this past December when he got an inkling of the negligence and cover-up that occurred in Macho B’s case he said something about learning more about “prosecutorial decisions and the continuing role of key government officials in federal jaguar studies.” I first contacted his office 64 days ago to inquire if he really would follow-up on these issues but his office has never returned my calls or emails.
And then there is the former AZ U.S. Attorney, Dennis Burke. No one can question him as to why he chose not to prosecute any government officials in the Macho B case because he had to retire after his role in Operation Fast and Furious (AZ US Attorney and ATF joint gun smuggling/walking operation. A gun from this ridiculously negligent operation turned up at the murder scene of a U.S. Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry.) was made public.
One couldn’t dream of a more convoluted, corrupt, disturbing, sad and twisted tale surrounding the capture and death of an endangered species. If the government agencies, including legal ones, entrusted with conserving endangered species and enforcing endangered species law can get it so wrong with the most endangered species to reside in the U.S. just consider how bad it is for an endangered bug, plant, bird, or just about any other species living in the ecosystems that make up the U.S.
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.”
The AZ Republic series on Macho B consisted of two additional articles which can be found under the blogroll. Instead of correcting all the factual errors in the series and providing information that contradicts McCain’s claim that AZGFD initiated the attempt to capture Macho B and thus set McCain up (see blog post, “McCain, part 2”), I’m going to consider a few things presented in this series.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think AZGFD employees, specifically Ron Thompson, Terry Johnson, Bill Van Pelt, and Thorry Smith, as well as, Jack Childs all encouraged McCain to trap Macho B and supported the opportunity to do so (see blog posts under all the individuals names). But the victim aspect of McCain’s claim is utter bullshit. With that said, since McCain just publicly admitted to committing a few more felonies with his new confessions that he lied in his USFWS interviews because he was “under Thompson’s influence” and participated in another cover-up within a cover-up because Johnson and Thompson told him to lie about the scat, then what are the legal ramifications that McCain now faces? He is still under probation with the AZ U.S. Attorneys Office. He has a little over two years of probation left. I bet he was hoping that time would be lessened with his latest version of the “truth.” Perhaps he is up to his usual behavior (the Macho B case is not his first time) and is currently embroiled in a blame game somewhere across the Atlantic and now seeks a new “research” opportunity in the U.S?
If AZGFD conspired with McCain to illegally capture Macho B and then conspired to cover-up their intention after I came forward then wasn’t I set up to take the fall for these idiots? I was charged with two Endangered Species violations, McCain only one, and no one from AZGFD was charged. If their conspiracy existed then McCain, Thompson, Johnson, Childs & company have some explaining to do to me, my family, the USFWS Special Agents, and the AZ U.S. Attorneys Office, not to mention, the public.
I have to say it was nice to see Erin Fernandez, Terry Johnson, Ron Thompson, and Jack Childs named as people involved in Macho B’s capture somewhere other than this blog. Though I do wonder how Bill Van Pelt escaped inclusion in this Republic series? And finally… Thompson’s and Childs’ involvement in the tax payer funded, USFWS granted, University of Arizona jaguar study gets some attention. Their continuing involvement in jaguar research epitomizes the corruption and negligence present in some wild cat research in AZ. Especially since Childs had previously violated his Endangered Species permit with the USFWS by not listing McCain or I as permitees for BJDP and not amending his permit to include the use of jaguar scat as a scent lure. And lest I forget, Johnson and Fernandez were also given more attention in another forum about their continuing involvement in jaguar “conservation.” Again, perfect examples of corruption and negligence with the added bonus of malfeasance.
Part one of an investigative series into Macho B’s capture and death was published today in the AZ Republic (see blog roll for link). I spoke with the reporter, Dennis Wagner on one occasion. I decided not to be involved in his article because as I wrote to him:
If your angle is truly about the cover-up that occurred in Macho B’s case regarding state and federal employees not being charged, anything McCain has to say will only take away legitimacy from that argument. McCain knowingly broke the law, lied about, defamed people at an attempt to protect himself and then engaged in his own cover-up with Smith. In an email he stated with regard to catching & collaring a jaguar, ” Yeah, the fucking feds won’t give me permission, so I will just have to accidentally do it.” In another email regarding permits for Macho B’s capture McCain stated, “they (AZGFD) did say they would have never giving (sic) us permission to do it, but are very glad we did…” and with regard to Macho B’s capture McCain stated, “I have to tell you I have pulled a hell of a fast one on the system here. I orchestrated this whole thing… I set the snares and I waited till I knew what was coming. Then I placed a little of my very very special sauce…” The cover-up is an important issue not just in Macho B’s case but is also part of what I suspect to be a larger problem in wildlife conservation. It is too important an issue to be tied into McCain trying to defend his ego by blaming others for his actions. That does nothing for the benefit of the next jaguar or wildlife conservation in general. In fact, considering McCain’s history in wildlife work, his involvement in your article makes a mockery of the serious consequences that occur to wildlife because of incompetent, inexperienced, and arrogant biologists. Please do not quote me in your article.
So, part one of the series was published today, “Who killed Macho B?” And there is McCain doing what he does best, defending himself; “I think that my case is much more one of being ‘lured into a trap’ than that of Macho B…” And then he goes on to say, “Simply put, I was set up.” My quotes about McCain being a fall guy follow seemingly endorsing McCain’s claim to victimhood and my belief he was set up. I do not believe McCain was set up and I certainly do not believe McCain was a victim. Macho B was a victim and he is dead. I do think McCain became the fall guy for AZGFD because he set himself up to be the fall guy when he lied about everything from the beginning. He put himself front and center in that first AZ Daily Star article denying scat was used and attacking me. He gift wrapped himself to AZGFD to be their fall guy. I can only hypothesize that it was a no-brainer for them.
In this article McCain seems to be putting a lot of blame on the guy he considered his boss on the snaring project, Ron Thompson. Based on the emails and interviews I received in my FOIA request and have provided on this blog I do believe Thompson encouraged McCain to go after Macho B. He certainly didn’t stop him. But the examples McCain provides in this article are deceitful.
McCain says Thompson “placed a paper bag in my truck containing fresh jaguar scent…” That is wrong. McCain thought it contained jaguar scent, he gave the bag to me thinking it contained jaguar scent but as I wrote in an email titled, “fake do-do,” to him (provided in my FOIA request): “The bag with male jag shit was actually a bag of wood shavings. Smelled too good to have been shat or pissed upon.” McCain replied: “That’s strange. would have thought Ron would have given me good stuff. maybe he thought there was urine on it…not sure…”
Next, McCain claims an “assistant” was present when Thompson told him: “He stated several times, ‘What you need to do is get a GPS collar on a jaguar — not in Mexico, but in the U.S., on Macho B.’” I contacted the “assistant” whom I believe McCain is referring to this morning and that person denies there was ever such an exchange. It could be a different person McCain is referring to, but he used the moniker “assistant” during that time period and attributed it to the person I contacted.
Now the big one for me is that it was reported there is a Feb. 2, 2009 (16 days before Macho B’s capture) AZGFD report outlining a proposed budget to capture a jaguar: “The draft document announced that Arizona, New Mexico, the USFWS and Jag CT ‘propose to capture, collar (with GPS and satellite technology) and monitor jaguars in this region. To start, likely a jaguar referred to as Macho B would be selected for monitoring.'” WOW! I don’t believe I have ever seen that document. That would have been an important document to have as I was preparing for trial. And if I haven’t seen that document I would like to know why I haven’t. To the best of my knowledge and recollection it was not provided in the disclosure of my case and that would entail that it was a suppressed document. If it wasn’t provided, who the fuck suppressed it?
And lastly, it is reported McCain now claims responsibility for placing scat at the snare. Shit, why didn’t I think of that!
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.”
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.
On April 2, 2009 Emil McCain met with a USFWS Special Agent (SA) for an interview regarding the criminal investigation that began the day before into Macho B’s capture and death. McCain told the SA he was “totally willing to talk to the agent and happy to be involved in a formal investigation where the truth would come out and be reported.” However, “he did not feel comfortable answering questions without the presence of an attorney.”
McCain did not speak with the USFWS SAs again until his first “use immunity” interview held at the U.S. Attorney’s office on January 15, 2010 with his lawyer present.
After several “use immunity” interviews McCain was only charged with the Endangered Species Act violation of “knowingly attempt to trap, capture and collect without lawful permit or authority a jaguar, an endangered species.”
I heard McCain first plead not guilty, but then changed his plea to guilty. His punishment was five years probation which included not working on any large cat or large carnivore project in the U.S. during that time. There was also a $1000 fine. Later AZGFD charged him with an $8000 fine and took away his hunting license.
McCain’s punishment had no immediate effect on him and perhaps still doesn’t. It was rumored that shortly after his pleading guilty he left for Spain where his girlfriend, a veterinarian with an Iberian Lynx project, had hooked him up with a job working with the lynx. The Iberian Lynx is one of the rarest wild felids of the WORLD. In fact, McCain co-authored a scientific paper about using scent lures to attract the Iberian Lynx to camera sets (see blogroll for link).
The Snare: According to Smith, the wire would be looped around a tree and the snare wire through it. McCain and Smith agreed to use bungee cords on all the snares to absorb the shock from a snared animal. In addition, they agreed to use a short leash and bungee cords because they ” had talked about this and there might be a jaguar in this area” (this is the “jag friendly” reference in regard to the snare set when McCain contacts Dr. Aguilar about proper drug and dosage for a jaguar capture). Smith stated that McCain had told him that snared jaguars “they get a run up as fast as they can and…just destroy themselves. They’re just so powerful they just rip their arm out.” So because of that, McCain and Smith “wanted a short lead with no shrubs around it and this is generally how we set them all.” Apparently large rocks and boulders next to the snare and within reach of a snared animal were not safety concerns for them. Below is a picture I took of the snare site where Macho B was captured.
Smith also said: ” swivels were used on the snares to keep animals’ forearms from breaking; tape was used on the snare loop to keep it from overly tightening and it keeps the animal a little insulated from the snare wire; a thinner gauge wire (3/16 of an inch) was used so it could set faster.” Crabb clarified that electrical tape was wrapped around the snare wire enough to create a stop, but the entire snare cable that would wrap around a captured animal’s foot was not wrapped. In essence, there wasn’t much “padding” provided to a snared animal to prevent the cable wire from cutting into them. See link under blog roll for videos about setting a snare. The photo below is from the AZGFD website. It is Macho B’s snared foot.
Snares were checked only once a day, by eight in the morning, despite the field team staying within five miles of the snaring area. McCain’s academic advisor “criticized AZGFD for not taking extra precaution considering the jaguar presence and employ radio sensors on the snares to immediately alert the trappers of a snared animal.” Such sensors would minimize stress and injury to any snared animal as the animal would be tended to quickly instead of being trapped for an unknown amount of time. And if there was ever an area and time of year to employ these sensors and to check the snares more than once a day, Penasco Canyon in the winter is it.
The Area: Penasco Canyon is close to the US-MX border. It has a 4wd road that dead ends at the canyon from the north and a century’s old trading route that passes through there from the south. The canyon is easily accessible and frequented by hunters, birders, hikers, immigrants, smugglers, and occasionally, border patrol. The human activity in the area posed an additional threat to the safety and well-being of any snared animal. The canyon also has an amazing diversity of life and any animal snared could be vulnerable to attacks from another animal. A javelina tooth was found in Macho B’s tail when he was initially captured. Though Smith thought it was an older injury, there is a chance that it wasn’t and Macho B’s claw marks that were found seven feet up the mesquite tree he was tethered to could be evidence he was trying to escape a javelina attack (this animal has bad eyesight but a good sense of smell).
In addition, since AZGFD was using McCain’s knowledge of the area for the snaring project, McCain knew from BJDP photo data that in the colder months lions switched up their movement patterns from being active mostly from dusk to dawn to being active anytime day or night. Thus, a lion, maybe a bear, and perhaps Macho B, whom was captured on film a few times during the day, could be snared for close to twenty-four hours.
And another factor that should have been considered for upping the amount of times the snares were checked was the weather. In southern AZ, winter can mean a seventy plus degree day and then the temperatures can plunge into the teens at night. Winter here can also be just plain cold, and produce such fun things as freezing rain and snow. This extreme temperature range leaves snared animals vulnerable to both hyperthermia and hypothermia. Macho B was hypothermic. Frost was on the ground when Smith and Crabb found him and when his temperature was taken it was four degrees below normal.
And another safety consideration to keep in mind is despite all the preparations for capturing an animal there was virtually no preparation (except having the recommended drugs) for handling any animal, this includes the only known jaguar to be documented in the United States at the time, Macho B.