Whistling for the Jaguar

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

Archive for the tag “Erin Fernandez”

New legal ruling regarding Macho B investigation file

Last week I was sent this link

Judge Jorgensen, a federal judge in the District of Arizona for the U.S., has granted federal officials the right to privacy even if they were investigated and recommended for prosecution in a federal case and remain employed by the taxpayers of the U.S.!

Wrapping up

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.

“Jaguar Conservation”

I still have not received a response from Congressman Grijalva’s office. That equates to 46 days of silence.

Erin Fernandez is still employed as “Jaguar Lead” for the USFWS and involved in the U of AZ jaguar study. Terry Johnson is still a paid AZGFD consultant for jaguar and wolf issues though he failed both species when he was the Endangered Species Coordinator for AZGFD. Jack Childs and Ron Thompson are still with the U of AZ jaguar study and had their co-workers falling over themselves in a recent interview (see blogroll for link) to describe the men’s “knowledge” and “skills” in the wake of Dennis Wagner’s damning series of the Macho B investigation published in the AZ Republic (see blogroll for parts 1-3) which implicates both men in having a definite role in Macho B’s illegal capture. Come to think of it, there was enough evidence from the federal criminal investigation into Macho B’s capture and death which accomplished the same thing.

“We are very pleased about these photos,” said Lisa Haynes, who manages the research project and coordinates the Wild Cat Conservation and Research Center project. “I am proud of our field team and their incredible knowledge and capacity to place these cameras in the best locations to detect jaguar and ocelot movement.”

Culver, who is the project’s principal investigator, said: “What is exciting about this research project is the combination of techniques and skills, from the deep knowledge of our field people of how wild cats move around the landscape to cutting edge molecular-genetic analysis of the scats.

AZGFD is still one of the lead agencies in jaguar conservation in AZ and the U.S. despite violating their Endangered Species permits and the Endangered Species Act. Not to mention that they had inexperienced personnel in the field to capture a jaguar despite knowing it was a possibility, plus their snaring techniques and protocols were unsafe for the animals especially given the location of the snares along human/drug smuggling corridors.

I’m beginning to think that keeping these people/agencies involved in jaguar conservation is someone’s or some agency’s design in order to ensure that the jaguar species has no chance of survival in the U.S.

The effectiveness of jaguar scat

Contrary to what McCain told me, the jaguar scat he obtained from the Phoenix Zoo and had directed me to place at BJDP cameras and near the AZGFD snare that trapped Macho B was not from a female jaguar in estrus. According to Stuart Wells of the Phoenix Zoo, whom supplied the scat to McCain, the scat was from both the female and male jaguars housed at the zoo and the female was not in heat during the scat collection. It wasn’t until days after McCain received the scat that Wells thought the female had just come into heat because the male jaguar had begun “mewling” at her.

During the criminal investigation, the USFWS Special Agents tasked the USFWS “Jaguar Lead,” Erin Fernandez to investigate the effectiveness of jaguar scat as a scent lure and how that related to the “take” of Macho B. Fernandez reviewed eight studies that used attractants and two of those concluded that the scent lures had no long range effect but were effective to hold the animal in front of a camera long enough to obtain a better photo. Fernandez told the USFWS SAs that, “although jaguars have well developed olfactory organs, there was little published information on the olfactory ability of jaguars.” Fernandez stated, “she did not think that scat would have a long distance effect.”

With regards to using jaguar scat as a scent lure and if that met the criteria for a “take” violation of the Endangered Species Act Fernandez was uncertain. She explained there was too little known about Macho B and when the scat was used in relation to his detections in southern Arizona. If a case for a “take” violation could be made Fernandez suggested the use of jaguar scat as a scent lure could meet the definition of “harass” under the “take” violation of the Endangered Species Act.

Ron Thompson of AZGFD and McCain’s perceived boss on the snaring project also told the USFWS SAs that “there are no published studies on the effectiveness of scat for lions and jaguars.”

Missing Document

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

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

AZGFD Response to my public records request:

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

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

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

Reasons #1 and #2:

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

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

Reasons #3 – #7:

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

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

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

Stop the Presses, part 2

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.

The Investigation: Erin Fernandez, Part 3

Concerning permits, Fernandez was not clear about AZGFD’s authority to capture a jaguar. At first she told the USFWS SAs that AZGFD was permitted for an intentional and an incidental capture then later she said she was unsure if AZGFD was authorized for intentional take. Fernandez also stated she didn’t know, “if the guidelines for incidental capture were ever reviewed by USFWS.” Fernandez was aware jaguars were not listed on the current (2009) AZGFD endangered species permit from USFWS and that they (AZGFD) had requested through an email that the jaguar be covered on the Section 6 agreement instead. Fernandez stated, “I don’t really understand the Section 6 (of the Endangered Species Act).” Fernandez concluded, ” I think… that, to get a full interpretation of how all this works for the jaguar, we almost need like a Solicitor’s opinion or something.”

Regarding the AZGFD snaring project, Fernandez said she was not aware of the specific locations of the AZGFD’s snaring efforts. This is false as she was given specifics by AZGFD tech, McCain and also had knowledge that a hunter had killed one of the collared lions in the Atascosas and AZGFD was attempting to collar another animal in the same area. She had also been notified of Macho B’s latest detections which included track and photo documentation of his presence in the snaring area. See previous blog post, The Investigation: Erin Fernandez, Part 2.

Fernandez did advocate collaring a jaguar and was initially excited about Macho B’s capture. She emailed McCain on 2-20-09, “… Congratulations on the capture of Macho B!!! Such exciting news!” But Fernandez  told the SAs, “I think that I wouldn’t have supported the capture of Macho B, given his advanced age.”

With regard to her not providing pertinent emails for the investigation Fernandez responded: “Yeah, I just don’t recall getting that (emails) and I didn’t know anything about this jaguar capture. I was in no way involved in the planning (inaudible), and that’s why I didn’t share that information.” With regard to not providing or alerting the SAs to emails Dr. Aguilar blind copied her on alerting her to AZGFD techs, McCain and Smith inquiring about proper drug and dosage advice for a jaguar capture, Fernandez again stated she didn’t remember those emails and she would, “cursorily take a look at and then file (emails), because the workload doesn’t necessarily allow me to look through every email thoroughly.”

When Fernandez was asked about her knowledge that Macho B could possibly be captured during the AZGFD snaring project she stated: “… I did not connect the dots in my mind… and that’s why I feel really bad, like I should have connected those dots because, yeah, we did know where Macho B was (inaudible) and we did know in general that people were out there doing the snaring… But, you know, I wasn’t the only one that knew about that, but being Jaguar Lead, I guess I should have had responsibility of at least notifying people that these two studies were occurring simultaneously, or that Macho B was potentially in the area where they were conducting these other studies.” Fernandez admitted she had been negligent.

Fernandez also stated she had not been very engaged in jaguar work, that it was a “peripheral” duty and a “low priority” for the Ecological Services office. She also said,”her responsibilities as the Jaguar Lead had not been explained to her” and that the jaguar is “really a state-managed species.”

Fernandez and others in her office were unaware that the AZGFD snaring project was funded with federal monies supplied through Federal Aid. This “federal nexus” required a Section 7 consultation which did not occur. Fernandez is responsible for Section 7 consultations but not responsible for initiating them (more on this in future post).

According to Fernandez, she contacted Terry Johnson (AZGFD Endangered Species Coordinator) and Todd Atwood (AZGFD), early in 2008, to discuss what to do if a jaguar or ocelot was treed during the AZGFD snaring project. Johnson’s response to her was that it would be discussed internally at AZGFD. Fernandez said she tried to follow up on the discussion but nothing ever came of it. In the OIG report and during the USFWS investigation, Fernandez stated she was “intimidated by Johnson and the feeling that the AZGFD could do whatever it wanted in Arizona.”

To me, Fernandez, is just one of several examples of why designating critical habitat for the jaguar is a waste of time and effort. Forgetting the legalities for a moment, even if all of the U.S. was considered critical habitat for jaguars who is going to protect the jaguar from the agencies and the people they employ in jaguar conservation? Both AZGFD and USFWS have proven they are unwilling and/or incapable of safely leading the way in jaguar conservation. In addition, the critical habitat plan that has been drafted is not for the jaguar species that currently exists in reality, the one that uses travel corridors on land such as arroyos, to get from one mountain range to another, but for the yet, undiscovered “flying jaguar” that can sail through the air from one protected mountain to another.

The Investigation: Erin Fernandez, Part 2

Fernandez was interviewed on April 22, 2009 by USFWS Special Agents (SA) and again on March 18, 2010, this time with her supervisor, Sherry Barrett present. There is no indication that she was given the Garrity Warning during these interviews (it is usually discussed in the transcripts at the beginning of the interview) but it would have been implied if she was forced by her employer, USFWS to answer questions in a USFWS investigation or face termination as defined by Garrity. It is noted that Fernandez was given Garrity when she was interviewed on June 11, 2009 by a USFWS SA and an Office of Inspector General Investigator.

During Fernandez’s first interview the SAs asked her to provide all pertinent and relevant communications to them. Fernandez then forwarded the SAs dozens of emails. In July and August 2009 USFWS SAs served search warrants on McCain and I’s email accounts. It was through McCain’s account the SAs discovered several emails relevant to the Macho B investigation that Fernandez did not provide them. Coincidentally, on April 1, 2009, the day the investigation began, Fernandez was switching to a new USFWS work computer. Ultimately the SAs seized both her USFWS computers and were also able to take “snapshots” of her email accounts to determine which emails were transferred and which ones were deleted.

What Fernandez knew:

1. Oct. 4, 2007 Fernandez congratulates McCain in an email on getting the donated North Star jaguar collar. She also writes; “I assume you told Terry (AZGFD Endangered Species Coordinator, Terry Johnson). My understanding is that he would plan and coordinate any capture efforts…” This email was NOT provided to SAs and was last accessed by Fernandez on 3-19-08.

2. Oct. 12, 2007 Fernandez emails Jack Childs requesting jaguar capture risk assessment document for USFWS Regional Director, Dr. Benjamin Tuggle who, “wants to know more about the risk and benefits of collaring a jaguar like Macho B…” This email was NOT provided to SAs and was last accessed by Fernandez on 10-15-07.

3. Oct. 14, 2008 McCain emails Fernandez informing her he is working with AZGFD on a border study and would like her knowledge about any planned Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) border construction. Fernandez replies asking him if he is working with Kirby (Kirby Bristow, lead field biologist for AZGFD snaring project) and recommends getting together to show them DHS proposed fence maps. This email was NOT provided to SAs and was last accessed by Fernandez on 2-2-09.

4. On Nov. 12 and 14, 2008 Fernandez is a recipient of an agency notification email sent by McCain to inform AZGFD and USFWS of new Macho B photo detections in the Tumacacori and Atascosa Mountains (had been over a year since Macho B was detected in the study area).

5. Nov. 17, 2008 McCain informs Fernandez he has collared several lions including a female that, “is west of Nogales and east of Sasabe fence.”

6. Dr. Roberto Aguilar forwards Fernandez an email string between him and McCain from Nov. 17-18 2008 where McCain states his desire to get a permit to capture Macho B and Aguilar replies discouraging the use of a snare on an old jaguar. Aguilar writes to Fernandez, “Don’t ask-don’t tell, Ok?” Fernandez replies to Aguilar, “Thanks friend…” This email string was NOT provided to SAs and not found in Fernandez’s current computer. It was in her work email on 3/09 but not 5/09 and was last accessed by her on 2-27-09.

7. Dec. 9, 2008 Fernandez hosts a meeting at USFWS Ecological Services office in Tucson for AZGFD and The Wildlife Conservation Society to introduce their cross border carnivore study (the snaring project) to other agencies and to meet with DHS liaison officer, Wayne Lackner about current and proposed DHS border construction.

8. Jan. 5, 2009 McCain emails Fernandez and others about DHS fence construction in the Patagonia Mountains that had not been discussed at the 12-9-08 meeting. In part McCain writes; “We specifically named the areas where we are currently working-Huachucas, Patagonias and Atascosa/Pajaritos… As a result Kirby and I have been planning the next trapping efforts to be focused in the east and west sides of the Atascosas…” This email was NOT provided to SAs and was last accessed by Fernandez on 1-14-09.

9. Feb. 3, 2009 McCain sends agency notification email, which Fernandez was a recipient, about new Macho B picture picked up that day in the Tumacacori Mountains. Fernandez replies to McCain the next day; “Thanks Emil. Macho B is looking good!” McCain’s email was provided but not Fernandez’s response.

10. Feb. 6, 2009 Dr. Aguilar forwards email chain titled, “Jaguar Immobilization” to AZGFD Research Branch Chief, Chasa O’Brien (lead on snaring project) and blind copies Fernandez. The email chain is McCain and Smith (McCain’s coworker on AZGFD snaring project) asking Aguilar how to anesthetize a jaguar if one were captured during the AZGFD snaring project. Aguilar writes to O’Brien, Fernandez is blind copied: “I wanted to give you a “heads up” on an email exchange regarding jaguars and anesthesia that I had with Emil and Thorry (Smith). They asked for a good, safe way to anesthetize a jaguar, should one be accidentally trapped as part of the AZGFD black bear, mountain lion study… I don’t want you to be surprised if you hear about it from the field team. Just trying to be helpful.” This email string was NOT provided to SAs; it was in her email account on 3/09 but not 4/09; and was last accessed on 3-18-09. Fernandez denied knowledge of the email and it’s contents though it was located under the folder titled, “Jaguar” in her email account before she deleted it.

11. Feb.9, 2009 Fernandez was recipient of agency notification email from McCain about latest Macho B photos and tracks detected in the Pajarita Mountains.

12. Feb. 19, 2009 Fernadez blind copied on email chain sent from Dr. Aguilar to Chasa O’Brien regarding his congratulatory communications with McCain and Smith about Macho B’s capture. Aguilar writes to O’Brien (and Fernandez): “This sort of thing can be sensitive, so please don’t mention it to anyone, but the jaguar capture ( I am told was incidental) and collaring went well. FYI…” Email chain was NOT provided to SAs; email present in “Jaguar” folder on 3/09 but not 4/09; email not found in her current computer and was last accessed by Fernandez on 3-18-09.

13. Feb. 19, 2009 Another email exchange in which Aguilar blind copies Fernandez. The email is Aguilar, once again, congratulating McCain and Smith on Macho B’s capture and hypothesizing the jaguar protocol,  “may have been safe even in an older animal, which means more possible collars on other animals.” Email was NOT provided to SAs; present in “jaguar” folder on 3/09 but not 4/09; not found in current computer, and last accessed on 3-18-09.

14. Fernandez was again blind copied on an email exchange between Dr. Aguilar and Thorry Smith on 2-20-09. Smith tells Aguilar he was told to keep information regarding Macho B’s capture “low key.” Aguilar writes to Smith that he was speaking, “to AZGFD and USDA folks on a need to know basis” about the capture. This email was NOT provided; email not in Fernandez’s current computer and last accessed by her on 3-18-09.

15. Fernandez indicated to USFWS SAs during her 3-18-10 interview that she was unaware of jaguar locations, specifically west of Nogales. Yet, there were several more emails that proved otherwise. The first was an email from Jack Childs, responding to an inquiry by Fernandez, that names all the mountain ranges west of Nogales where jaguars had been detected. The second email was from a USFWS coworker who has forwarded an email from McCain that gives specific canyon and mountain range names where jaguars have been detected west of Nogales. And the third was an email exchange between Fernandez, her coworker, Susan Sferra, and Border Patrol liaison, Wayne Lackner. Lackner asks for jaguar locational information on behalf of Border Patrol. Fernandez and Sferra have reservations about giving them the specifics so Lackner agrees to inform Border Patrol agents that “… there is a jaguar west of Nogales where it has always been.”

To sum it up: Fernandez, USFWS “Jaguar Lead” was aware of the AZGFD snaring project and who was working on it; where the snares were going to be activated and that they were in Macho B’s territory; Macho B’s latest detections which included several in the snaring area; Macho B’s territory as it was known to BJDP; that AZGFD personnel were seeking proper drug and dosage advice for a jaguar capture; that there was a donated jaguar collar available if a jaguar was captured; and that McCain hoped to get a permit to capture Macho B; and Fernandez concealed quite a bit of this information from USFWS SAs during the course of their federal criminal investigation into Macho B’s capture and death.

The Investigation: Erin Fernandez, Part 1

Fernandez was the “jaguar lead” for USFWS out of their Tucson, Arizona Ecological Services Office.

According to investigation reports in the Macho B case, it was documented Fernandez violated the following laws:

1. Fernandez did corruptly alter, destroy, mutilate, or conceal a record, document, or other object, or attempt to do so, with the intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding; … Obstruction of Justice.

2. Fernandez did knowingly and willfully falsify, conceal, or cover up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact (e-mail records), … Fraud and False Statements.

The Arizona U.S. Attorneys Office chose not to prosecute Fernandez. In fact, she was one of five people whom could have been prosecuted but were not. The reasons (any one or more could apply to a given individual) given by the AZ U.S. Attorneys Office for not prosecuting them were; Agency request; civil, admin or other disciplinary alternatives; lack of evidence of criminal intent; and weak or insufficient admissible evidence.

Fernandez was part of the “team” that reviewed the U.S. critical habitat designation for the jaguar in 2011-12 and remained in her position as “jaguar lead” until she went on maternity leave this year. She is currently listed as the USFWS “office lead” for the jaguar and ocelot. I am unaware of any repercussions that Fernandez faced with respect to the investigation findings. It should be noted that Fernandez was questioned by her own agency, USFWS, in the Macho B investigation and that same agency is ultimately responsible for endangered species conservation in the U.S.

Jaguar Immobilization

On 2-2-09 McCain emailed Dr. Roberto Aguilar in part (Thorry Smith is cc’d) :  “I wanted to pick your brain for the most recent knowledge on jaguar immobilization. I was hoping that we could make ourselves completely prepared for the unintended event of catching a jag. I already set the snares in the most jag friendly way possible: short leads, large shock absorbers, etc…”

Dr. Aguilar is a well respected veterinarian that had previously worked at the Phoenix Zoo. He was a member of the JAGCT scientific advisory team, served as an informal consultant on many projects and on this date had an application for employment pending with AZGFD. Dr. Aguilar contacted Dr. Sharon Deem, co-author of the Jaguar Health Program Manual, and a well respected wildlife vet and epidemiologist.  Dr. Aguilar asked Dr. Deem for her recommended protocol for a possible jaguar capture using snares in the middle of nowhere with no vet.

On 2-3-09 Dr. Deem responds: “This is a tricky question but my thoughts are that Telazol in the hands of inexperienced “anesthesiologist” has the least detrimental effects. The problem I have seen and heard of the most is prolonged recoveries. Alternatively, the ket/xyl (ketamine/xylazine) combo would probably work and be safe and much shorter recovery time…”

Dr. Aguilar forwards Dr. Deem’s email to McCain and Smith along with his own comments. Smith ended up using Telazol on Macho B at his initial capture.

Dr. Aguilar blind copied USFWS “jaguar lead” Erin Fernandez on this email chain titled “jaguar immobilization” between Aguilar, Deem, Smith and McCain. And on 2-6-09 he forwarded Fernandez the following email he sent to Chasa O’Brien (AZGFD Project lead for snaring project): “I wanted to give you a “heads up” on a email exchange regarding jaguars and anesthesia that I had with Emil McCain and Thorry Smith. They asked for a good, safe way to anesthetize a jaguar, should one be accidentally trapped as part of AZGFD black bear, lion study…I don’t want you to be surprised if you hear about it from the field team. Just trying to be helpful.”

Fernandez first denied having knowledge about the drug/dosage inquiry by McCain and Smith when asked about it by the USFWS agents in charge of the Macho B investigation. When the agents showed her the email chain she was blind copied on by Dr. Aguilar she then said she didn’t recall the emails. O’Brien stated she didn’t think anything about the email Dr. Aguilar sent her and chalked it up to him sucking up to her because of his pending job application with AZGFD. This was odd, to me, because just a few weeks prior O’Brien had actually started to inquire about whether an Environmental Assessment should be done for the snaring project in case of a jaguar capture. Her inquiry was prompted by Ron Thompson casually telling her several times over the previous months that there was a possibility of incidentally capturing a jaguar through the lion/bear snaring project. Neither Fernandez or O’Brien did anything with the knowledge that Dr. Aguilar provided them.

Dr. Aguilar also forwarded the “jaguar immobilization” email chain to Bill Van Pelt of AZGFD on 2-3-09. Van Pelt is a non-game biologist who had been active on the JAGCT. And on this day he had been approached by Thompson (the third person in 2 weeks to inquire about permits in regard to a jaguar capture) who wanted to know if AZGFD would be covered (by a permit) if a jaguar was caught during the lion/bear study. Thompson also told him there was sign all over down south and there was the possibility of capturing an animal (a jaguar by the name of Macho B) that weekend. McCain had just picked up 3 new pics of Macho B taken in January from the Tumacacori Mountains. McCain would  send out his official notification to the agencies that night and Thompson, Van Pelt, and Fernandez were recipients of that email which included the dates, GPS points, and the mountain range name from where the pictures were taken. Van Pelt deleted Dr. Aguilar’s email and “figured he would handle the matter if needed,” but he stated,”the message made it clear a jaguar was not targeted.”

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