Whistling for the Jaguar

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

Archive for the tag “jaguar”

Thank you

I wanted to thank everyone who has taken the time to read this blog and become interested in jaguar and/or wildlife conservation. My goal with this blog and my recently published book, Cloak & Jaguar was to provide all the information I have (via a FOIA request) regarding Macho B’s capture and death. What you, the reader, does with that information is, well, up to you. I encourage anyone who is interested in wildlife conservation to become a responsible advocate for the cause. If you choose to volunteer for or donate funds to a group or even hire a guide for a photographic tour of a national park please vet them. It takes a few moments but Google makes it easy. And not just the group as an entity but also the individuals doing research or work on their behalf.

As this blog comes to a close for more information about jaguar conservation please visit Conservation CATalyst, The Jaguar and its Allies, Southwest Jags, Northern Jaguar Project, and Panthera.

A reminder for anyone with information about wildlife and/or wildland crime, WildLeaks is there to help and can be contacted anonymously.

I would also like to thank everyone that has reached out to me over the years and more recently in regard to my book. I enjoy hearing from you and if anyone else wants to get in touch my contact is: cloakandjaguar@yahoo.com

Finally, if anyone has a moment in their busy lives a review of my book on Amazon would be appreciated. It’s easy; just login to your Amazon account and go to the Cloak & Jaguar product page here and click on the Write a Review button. Also, anyone interested in buying a copy of Cloak & Jaguar the paperback is now on sale for $10.95 and the ebook for $5.99.

Many thanks!

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King Jr.



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.!

The End

My plan with this blog was to post all the information from the criminal investigation into Macho B’s capture and death that I legally could. I have accomplished that. Unless another intentionally suppressed document emerges from the depths of the AZGFD and/or USFWS or McCain invents another version of “But, I was THE victim!” in an inane attempt to gain back a tidbit of whatever credibility he had I probably will not post again. I left out the personal part of the story in this blog (mostly) so it focused solely on what was uncovered by the USFWS Special Agents during their investigation. I’ll get to the personal in my book. And speaking of personal, that is how I would like to end this blog.

Blowing the Whistle

First, regarding whistleblowers. If there are any future whistleblowers reading this blog please check out: http://www.whistleblower.org (link also under blogroll) for helpful information and advice before you come forward. Speaking the truth is not always perceived as the respectful, decent, moral, or right thing to do. As a whistleblower be prepared for the emotional, physical, and mental stress that will occupy your daily life. Know that the moment you blow the whistle, life as you know it will die. Be prepared for the strain on not just yourself, but also family, loved ones, and friends. Recognize that some of these relationships may not make it through the strain. Be financially prepared; if you are not fired ( I was) then you will be isolated to the point of wishing you were fired or demoted. Hire a lawyer before you utter one word. I didn’t hire a lawyer until I was charged and by then it was too late. The idea is self preservation and protection. The people whom you are blowing the whistle on will come at you with everything they have, fabricate even more, and attempt to turn you into the “bad” person and themselves into the victim. Be aware of whistleblower laws and protections, each state is different. Know that if you end up in the federal judicial system the Obama administration has been the hardest on whistleblowers in recent U.S. history, if not its whole. Adjust your expectations in the value of truth and justice. The truth is often inconvenient in whistleblower cases and the opposition will try to suppress, manipulate, and delete it. Justice is rarely found in the legal system. In my case it was absent.

It is unforgivable that whistleblowers are consistently retaliated against while those that remain quiet and uphold the status quo do so out of fear of said retaliation and those that are intentionally breaking the law and/or are endangering other lives, something or someone seem to persist in the shadows unscathed.


Macho B

Macho B was an individual jaguar that lived and thrived in a vast and diverse ecosystem that spanned from southern Arizona into, in all probability, northern Mexico. He was not a symbol for open borders, wilderness designation, wild places, conservation, an organization, agency, or an open mine pit-free landscape. He was just a jaguar trying to survive in the world. If anything can be deemed symbolic of his life, it is the end of it. His snaring and death are symbolic and indicative of all that is wrong in wildlife conservation. If you see a jaguar in the wild please thank the stars, luck, the universe, God, or better yet, the jaguar and appreciate the moment. But, PLEASE do not call AZGFD, USFWS, or the University of AZ jaguar project to report the presence of the jaguar; they will end up endangering the animal, if not killing him or her.

Several prominent biologists have stated that Macho B’s existence, or any other jaguars’ in southern AZ or New Mexico are not significant to the jaguar species as a whole. That argument has always seemed odd and callous to me as it comes from biologists whom supposedly want to conserve the species, Panthera Onca and are interested and invested in the lives of  jaguars, yet they cherry pick which individuals of the species are important based on geography and funding. Macho B was important; he was a life, an endangered life by legal definition and his death was significant to the survival of his species. Because, if an individual jaguar’s life cannot be respected then how can the lives of the species be as a whole?

BJDP-B1c APRIL 2007 050

We owe respect to the living. To the dead we owe only truth. Voltaire


Who’s on first?

As I researched permits and the permitting process while preparing for my defense in the Macho B case I had a constant headache. Very few people in AZGFD and USFWS grasped what permits were needed to incidentally or intentionally capture a jaguar and the process and requirements needed in order to fulfill and honor the actual permits. As one USFWS official stated, “Nobody really has a clear understanding of how this permitting works, quite frankly.” He went on to say, “I don’t know that there’s anybody else in the nation that does permitting the way Game and Fish’s (AZ) permitting process has morphed into.”

The Permits

There are two permits repeatedly referred to in regard to Macho B’s capture. The first is the Section 10 permit [10 (a) 1 (A) ]. According to a USFWS official, “Section 10 permits are “our” authorization for incidental takes of species to private entities. The state is included because they are a non-federal entity.” Even though “jaguar” had previously been listed on AZGFD’s Section 10 permit it wasn’t on the version that was applicable in 2009. So AZGFD repeatedly referred to the next permit that was often mentioned, the Section 6 Agreement, as their authority to “incidentally” capture a jaguar. Again, according to a USFWS official: “The USFWS had a Section 6 agreement, under the Endangered Species Act, with the State of Arizona Fish and Game Department which covers the incidental take of species for actions done under that agreement. The states use that agreement to get their Federal Aid money from the USFWS.” Another USFWS official categorized the Section 6 this way: “The Section 6 agreement provides no authority for the take of an endangered species. That agreement talks about cooperative agreements, MOUs, MOAs and basically, funding. It is how to move money from the “feds” to the states. It’s how the states and the USFWS are going to cooperate on recovery plans. This is how we’re going to play nice.”

AZGFD violated their Section 6 agreement by not consulting with the USFWS prior to placing snares in Macho B’s habitat. Assuming Federal Aid is now aware of AZGFD’s violation they have the option to pull all funding for this project.


According to a USFWS official that issued Section 10 permits for research and recovery in the Southwest Region: “If AZGFD was doing mountain lion research and did not know that a jaguar was in the area, they would be covered by their permit. If AZGFD knew that a jaguar was in the area of their mountain lion research [which they did], then AZGFD was not covered by any federally issued permits.” One of the USFWS SAs questioning this official gave the following scenario: “Say the same guy that was downloading the pictures of the jaguars is the same guy setting the snares for another study [referring to McCain]. He’s actually working both studies. Would this fit under the current permit(s)?” The official answered, “No.” This official also said that Smith and Crabb whom actually tranquilized, handled, and collared Macho B were also not covered under any permits. This is because neither AZGFD nor the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project (BJDP) amended their Section 10 permits with the USFWS to include activities and personnel from both projects. AZGFD and BJDP were cooperators on the AZGFD lion and bear snaring project not just because McCain was pulling double duty by working on both projects but because they were utilizing the same study area (an AZGFD snare within feet of a BJDP camera) and AZGFD was utilizing BJDP photo data to determine where the AZGFD snares would be set to meet their project’s goals of capturing and radio collaring lions and bears [and, apparently Macho B]. In addition, not a one of them was listed on BJDP’s or AZGFD’s permits.

Another official with USFWS whom was knowledgeable about permits stated: “If the jaguar capture was purposeful then AZGF should have assembled a risk assessment team [as determined in the jaguar conservation framework that discusses jaguar capture protocols] which would have included a representative from USFWS… if you do not follow the conditions of the permit then the permit is invalid. Now, if the capture of the jaguar was incidental then because of an ongoing AZGF mountain lion/bear study, was it funded or approved by any Federal involvement. If funded by USFWS, Federal Aid then under Section 7 a biological opinion should have been completed by AZGF with consultation with USFWS.”

There was no biological opinion, aka, environmental assessment done by AZGFD nor did they engage in a Section 7 consultation with the USFWS. Under the AZGFD-USFWS Comprehensive Management Systems agreement it states: “The responsibility for reviewing proposed jobs for possible impacts to federal listed endangered and threatened species is assigned to the Department’s (AZGFD) Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Branch. This step is part of our EA (Environmental Assessment) checklist. If any listed species may be affected by any activity the Department undertakes the Department will ensure compliance with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.”

The EA and Section 7 should have occurred BEFORE the lion/bear project set and activated their first snare.

AZGFD never initiated an EA or Section 7 consultation for the lion/bear snaring project despite receiving federal funds through Federal Aid. These checklists are not optional but mandated by policy and law. AZGFD cannot claim ignorance of these checklists and consultations as the procedures to address any impact to a threatened or endangered species during the course of any AZGFD activity are outlined and defined in their own documents.

Bottom line 

AZGFD did not have a permit to intentionally or inadvertently capture a jaguar because they violated the federal law known as the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by not initiating any consultation/review/checklist for the lion/bear project that was occurring in known jaguar habitat and when it was known Macho B was present. AZGFD violated every permit they had, nullifying all of them, and thus, the AZGFD lion/bear project was an illegal study and Macho B’s capture was in violation of the ESA.

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.

Emil McCain, Part 2

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.

Thorry Smith, Part 3

The above picture is from the AZGFD website and is Thorry Smith posing with Macho B at his initial capture. Smith was involved in Macho B’s capture and recapture. To read more about his involvement please see this blog’s posts: Capture; Day 1: February 18, 2009; Day 10: Feb. 27; Day 11: Feb. 28; Day 12: March 1; Day 13: March 2.

There is not much to add to those posts except Smith told the USFWS SAs that he didn’t have much experience with the drug used to anesthetize Macho B, Telazol or older animals. But, the USFWS Special Agents ask Smith a question they should have asked every AZGFD and USFWS employee whom was aware Macho B was vulnerable to being snared: “And if you’re being so prepared, and you’re getting ready for this chance… wouldn’t it be the best thing to have a vet there?” And Smith replied: “I agree. That’s not my call. We can’t afford that, and this is the way Game and Fish works. We have no money.”

An additional point would be a reminder, that Smith checked the AZGFD snares until Feb. 11. He then de-activated them to return home. He came back to the snaring area on Feb. 15 and re-activated the snares. Macho B was caught on Feb.18.

Garrity Interviews

Smith was granted immunity, as all AZGFD employees were, when speaking with their employer during the course of their internal administrative investigation. Part of the Garrity Warning reads, “… any responses given during this administrative investigation cannot be used against you in a subsequent criminal investigation.”

Smith starts off by admitting to committing a felony: “Well, I lied to the feds about it (use of jaguar scat). Scared to death. You know, Emil (McCain) and I came up with, this is bad. The department is going to look so bad…” Smith then goes on to admit to conspiring with McCain to protect themselves: “We made a different story to protect the department, to protect Emil, to protect my association with Emil about, you know, not leaving jaguar scat but (inaudible) there was no scat at all placed anywhere…”

Smith acknowledges that: “I realized that he (McCain) had put – when I was with him, he had put scat at the upper two of the south two camera sites that were two and four (actually both are about two) miles away about from any of our snares, and being naive as I was, I thought that was okay. I didn’t question it.”

As for the first snare of the day that also had a camera within feet of it Smith claimed ignorance: “… I was working on the set. They were working on the camera. I turned around. There was a scat in the trail figuring it was one of the lion scats they just put in there to get…” Lion scat was never used on this day or ever by the BJDP at camera sites. Smith also claimed ignorance about scat being placed at the last camera site of the day in Penasco Canyon (where Macho B was snared) and at the actual snare site where Macho B was captured.

Smith apparently didn’t find out about jag scat being placed at the other two camera sites until March 31. This was the day McCain called him to make him aware of my allegations of jaguar scat at camera sites and the snare. Smith supposedly asked McCain: “You guys didn’t put any in the cameras within our snare loop, did you?” And McCain responded, “Yeah, we did.” But McCain denied scat was placed at the snare that became the capture site. Smith claimed McCain put jag scat at the other camera sites behind his back.

So on March 31, Smith and McCain meet and discuss what they’re going to do for hours and come up with a plan to lie about the scat and for McCain to go back to the area; “He went in and cleaned it up, made it look like our story.” Smith just admitted to conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

What doesn’t make sense to me is if Smith was truly ignorant of all the places where scat was placed why didn’t he tell McCain to fuck off and then get in touch with his supervisors at AZGFD about what McCain just admitted? Scat a few miles away from the snares was something the AZGFD PR people could work with and Smith’s supervisors could probably give him a pass on. Smith and McCain barely knew each other. Why did Smith choose McCain over his career and later his family as he sat lying to federal investigators, committing a felony with serious monetary fines and jail time attached to the crime?

So Smith never admits to AZGFD his full knowledge about the use of scat at all the camera sites and the snare. I think it’s because he still believed he would retain his job at AZGFD and admitting the full truth would guarantee him being sacked. He even makes a reference in his third Garrity interview (p.8) to a job position he foresees himself occupying in the future. By this time, Smith had retained a lawyer whom might be working on immunity for him with the feds so perhaps he feels legally “safe” and is focusing on keeping his job.

See blogroll for link to Smith’s Garrity transcripts; redacted, of course.

Use Immunity Interview

Smith was interviewed on March 18, 2010 with counsel present at the U.S. Attorneys Office. He admitted to lying to the USFWS Special Agents about the use of scat when cameras were checked and snares opened on Feb. 4, 2009. He continued to maintain that he only found out about the scat at all the camera sites from McCain after Macho B’s capture. Smith also admitted his and McCain’s plan to “clean up” the camera/snaring area of scat. Apparently McCain called him afterwards and said, “We’re good.” Smith never admits to his knowledge of scat being placed at the snare site where Macho B was captured.

With regard to a jaguar capture Smith said, “We (he & McCain) were both hopeful.” Smith thought scat had nothing to do with Macho B’s capture. He had stated the same to AZGFD pointing out that Macho B had come from the north, not passing any camera sites, and the first snare he came to (the one Smith built& activated on his own Feb.5) had no scat and would have captured Macho B if people hadn’t tampered with the snare.

Smith claimed that McCain had tried to contact AZGFD Endangered Species Coordinator, Terry Johnson to tell him that he had a [fabricated] camera log that indicated scat was not used at the camera sites.

In addition, Smith claimed that when he and McCain met on March 31, McCain told him he had informed AZGFD lion&bear biologist, Ron Thompson about the use of jaguar scat and Thompson recommended McCain “deny it.”

Smith said, “It was his and Emil’s word against Janay’s,”  in regards to the placement of jaguar scat at the snare site.

Smith was fired about a week after his “use immunity” interview. I wonder if he had been re-interviewed after losing his job with AZGFD he would have told the whole truth regarding his knowledge of scat placement on Feb.4?

The Investigation: Chasa O’Brien

Chasa O’Brien is a Research Branch Chief with AZGFD. She was the lead biologist for the AZGFD lion and bear snaring project which snared and collared Macho B.

1. The AZGFD lion and bear snaring project

According to O’Brien: The lion/bear project was initiated in 2006 because many problem bears were being removed (relocated and/or killed by AZGFD) from Sierra Vista, AZ that came from the Huachuca Mountains and there was concern from AZGFD Commissioner Hernbrode the population was in peril. Hair snares designed to remove hair from bears were employed and the project was managed by Todd Atwood. Before Atwood left the project plans were made to collar the bears to determine their population; later to determine their habitat connectivity between the Sky Islands of southeastern AZ and their cross border movements. A Wildlife Conservation Society contact was collaborating on the project with Atwood. The Wildlife Conservation Society remained with the project providing assistance and possibly telemetry collars.

In June 2008, Kirby Bristow, the new lead field biologist for the snaring project approached O’Brien, his boss, and asked, “Hey, on this project for SE AZ, what if we were to capture a jaguar?” O’Brien responded, “No capturing jaguars in SE AZ.” Bristow followed up with, “Well, if there was interest to capture a jaguar?” And O’Brien responded, “No, that would have to be a process that would go through the entire Department and probably would require Commission approval and stuff and that was not something that we would do.” Bristow also asked, “If we were to capture a jaguar, could we radio collar it?” And O’Brien answered: “No, no radio collaring any jaguars. We don’t have permission for that. We don’t want to capture a jaguar in the first place.” O’Brien’s boss was brought in on the conversation and he supported what O’Brien told Bristow. O’Brien didn’t hear anything further about jaguars until months later when Ron Thompson (AZGFD lion&bear biologist) brought it to her attention that a jaguar could be captured on the snaring project.

O’Brien stated she was unaware of where the snares had been set or where the animals were being captured. She also did not know the snares were set up with short leads or in any other manner to benefit a jaguar capture.

I’m not involved that deeply in the project where I’m informed when they’re opening snares, closing snares or otherwise and where those are located at.

O’Brien also said she was unaware of Macho B’s presence in the snaring area and had not been sent any of the photo and track detection information that was shared with others in her agency and USFWS.

2. Environmental Assessment

From The USFWS investigation write-up: An Environmental Assessment (EA) is a component of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) enacted in 1970, where federal agencies using federal funds determine if federal projects have any negative impacts to the environment or even endangered species.

The lion and bear project was federally funded. O’Brien began wondering if an EA was done for the project and if one was required after Thompson approached her and told her there was a possibility of capturing a jaguar during the course of the lion/bear project.

In an email sent to O’Brien on 12/24/08 from REDACTED it states: “He feels that we best do an EA to address the issue and cover the department in the event that one of those big spotted cats ends up in one of our snares.”

And in an email on 1/20/09 from REDACTED to O’Brien about an EA for a possible jaguar capture during the lion/bear snaring project: “…We are technically covered if we inadvertently acquire one, but not if we go after one. You might want to hear the story from REDACTED to decide if we are covered enough, because if we do acquire one it is likely certain parties will raise some noise. The other approach would be to work this issue to the top and prepare a briefing that Larry (AZGFD Director, Larry Voyles) can take to Regional F&W Service Director…”

An EA was never done and O’Brien stated it was her responsibility. She also said: “Guidance for EA process was lacking from Habitat Branch which oversees the process. She has to go to the Habitat Branch and inform them of the project to initiate an EA process. This puts a hold on all snaring projects in AZ because of possible impacts to other endangered wildlife.” O’Brien never went to the Habitat Branch to inform them of the lion/bear snaring project occurring in jaguar habitat.

3. Dr. Roberto Aguilar

On 2/6/09 Dr. Aguilar emailed O’Brien and attached emails he had exchanged with McCain and Smith about proper drugs and dosages to immobilize a jaguar. This same email was also sent to Bill Van Pelt (AZGFD) and Erin Fernandez (USFWS).

I wanted to give you a “heads up” on an email exchange regarding jaguars and anesthesia that I had with Thorry and Emil. They asked for a good, safe way to anesthetize a jaguar, should one be accidentally trapped as part of 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.

When asked by the USFWS Special Agents (SAs) if she followed up on Aguilar’s email O’Brien responded: “No. I hadn’t taken his forwarding that as having anything to do with the request that Thorry and that whole email string. I had taken that to be a request to meet with regards to the open position (AZGFD job opening) and his desire to have that…”

4. Red Flags

In hindsight, there were “red flags” everywhere.

O’Brien said the first “red flag” occurred in December 2008 when Ron Thompson would occasionally tell her, “You know, you could incidentally capture a jaguar on this study.” Thompson’s comments initiated her questions about an EA being done for the snaring project. O’Brien also said she: “Hoped that if the jaguar presence was an immediate issue, Bristow would have come to her to raise concerns over capturing it (O’Brien is talking about Macho B’s presence on the trap line as detected by McCain, Smith and Crabb on 2/5/09. Supposedly, they never informed Bristow so he, in turn, could not inform O’Brien).” According to O’Brien, if she had been informed of Macho B’s presence near the snares she would have sought consultation with Endangered Species Coordinator, Terry Johnson and closed the snares until Director Voyles made a decision.

5. Capture

O’Brien had asked Bristow if there was intent to capture Macho B and, according to O’Brien, Bristow replied: “No. Anytime I’ve met with my field crews, I’ve specified that we are not capturing jaguars, that we are here to capture lions and bears.” O’Brien also asked of Bristow if any jaguar tracks had been seen because that had been raised and according to her, Bristow replied: “That, no they hadn’t seen any jaguar tracks. And then he indicated that there had potentially been a case where Thorry was out and had stepped on a jaguar track or what appeared was a larger cat track potentially that he wasn’t sure was a jaguar…” (On Feb.4 McCain, Smith & I walked over Macho B’s tracks, not noticing them because night had fallen. The next day, his tracks were found by McCain and he briefed Thorry Smith & Crabb about the tracks and what a jaguar capture was like)

O’Brien was not informed of Macho B’s capture until the day after it occurred. Bristow called her the morning after the capture. Smith had called Bristow the night of the capture after being told to do so by Ron Thompson. To be clear, the chain of command in this project did not include Thompson, but was, from top to bottom: O’Brien, Bristow, Smith (along with Crabb & McCain).

6. Conclusion

AZGFD has been the co-lead, along with New Mexico Game & Fish and in partnership with USFWS, in jaguar conservation for the U.S. since 1997. Macho B has been on all the agencies’ radars since 1996 when he was first documented in southeastern AZ.

USFWS SA: “Given the fact that you have endangered animals that live lives similarly to other non-protected animals, such as the wolf and the coyote, the jaguar and the mountain lion, do you foresee that there should be better information that’s relayed to the employees regarding how the laws affect what you do perhaps and, you know, just kind of outlining what happened and so forth?”

O’Brien: “Absolutely…”

O’Brien goes on to highlight a few changes that need to be made such as, direction needed to be implemented for an EA checklist and what projects trigger that process; training needed to be required for endangered species protocols and handling, including proper documents (handling protocols) being taken into the field; and a contact list needed to be implemented to communicate such a big event as capturing a jaguar to the proper people in the chain of command.

Why did it take Macho B’s capture and death to highlight the need for basic protocols and procedures in an agency that is responsible for all the wildlife of AZ, and the lives of AZ’s endangered species, including the rarest mammal to be found in the United States, the jaguar?

The Investigation: BJDP

Jack Childs was one of the founders of Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project (BJDP) and was the primary permittee on BJDP’s Endangered Species permit with USFWS. Childs was McCain and I’s boss.  We were the only employees of BJDP but Childs never listed us as permittees on the USFWS permit. Thus, we were never authorized to conduct jaguar research for BJDP.  Childs also didn’t alert USFWS that jaguar scat was being used on his project though he had full knowledge of its use at BJDP camera sites. BJDP’s permit was specific as to who was authorized to work on the project and which methods could be used. According to USFWS, “Any deviance from the terms of the permit is considered a violation of the permit conditions.” In addition, if BJDP and the AZGFD snaring project were “interfaced” then permits for both entities would have to be modified. Since AZGFD was using McCain, the biologist for BJDP, on their snaring project, and implementing snaring strategies based on BJDP’s data the two projects were very much interfaced. In addition, McCain had been given a GPS collar specifically to be used on a captured jaguar and that was the collar AZGFD placed around Macho B’s neck. Neither BJDP or AZGFD modified their permits so they were both in violation of their ESA permits.

Because Childs did not attempt to modify BJDP’s Endangered Species permit with regard to the placement of scat at BJDP camera sites, he left every person, including himself, whom had ever placed scat or was present when it occurred vulnerable to being charged with the “take” or “conspiracy to take” violation of the Endangered Species Act. Under the ESA “take” is defined as: to harass, harm, pursue, hurt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect or attempt to engage in any such conduct. McCain was charged with the “take” violation of the ESA and so was I, but I got the added bonus of also being charged with “conspiracy to take.” So the USFWS must believe that jaguar scat used as a scent lure alters jaguar behavior and meets the “harass” condition under the “take” violation. Yet, Childs was never charged with an ESA violation or penalized for breaking the terms of his ESA permit.

Childs and McCain also failed to report their use of jaguar scat under “Research Methods” in their report on jaguars of the southwest published in the Journal of Mammalogy.

The Investigation: Jack Childs

USFWS Special Agents (SA) made contact with Childs (McCain & I’s boss on BJDP) on April 5, 2009 by surprising him with a home visit. The SAs asked Childs if he would be willing to answer questions about Macho B but he declined preferring to consult with an attorney first. But Childs did offer one statement; “The Borderlands Project was completely separate from the AZGFD lion and bear snaring project and the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project  (BJDP) had nothing to do with the capture of Macho B and he didn’t know anything until after Macho B was caught.”

Childs must have forgotten a few things when he made this statement. For starters AZGFD was using BJDP data from cameras and track surveys and the project’s biologist, McCain, to determine where the AZGFD’s snares would be placed and both projects occupied the same areas, including snares being placed within feet of BJDP cameras. Second, Childs was included in an email McCain sent out to his AZGFD coworkers listing Childs as a contact for information regarding trapping for the AZGFD snaring project near Bear Valley Ranch. And after Macho B was trapped Childs’ sent out a congratulatory email to “the team” stating he always felt comfortable they could perform such a “monumental event successfully.”

On June 30, 2010 the USFWS SAs returned to Childs’ home in an attempt to speak with him again. Before Childs spoke with them he wanted a guarantee that he was not going to be prosecuted. Childs did say he had spoken with an attorney since the SAs last visit whom advised him to dodge the SAs when the investigation began. Childs also said, “he was frustrated over the jaguar incident and now felt that he and the BJDP had no credibility and that jaguar and large carnivore research had been sent back to the Stone Age.” Childs continued, “he was going to work in Mexico and blamed the predicament on the environmentalists in their efforts to obtain funding.” He also, “blamed Congressman Grijalva for the jaguar habitat law suit.”  Furthermore, Childs stated; “Emil (McCain) had made a mistake and was willing to pay the price. But AZGFD and others for years have been wanting a collar on that animal… I’m not gonna say those redacted did it intentionally… that’s up to you/courts to decide. Everyone had an opportunity to not trap in that area… and no one took that opportunity.”

Interestingly, Childs left himself out of the people whom wanted Macho B collared as he, too, was a big supporter of collaring him. He also forgot to mention his knowledge of Macho B being detected in the vicinity of the active AZGFD snares and his choice to not do anything about it.

Childs concluded with, “If it weren’t for Janay no one would know exactly what happened.” I don’t think he meant that as a compliment.

Childs is currently apart of the University of Arizona jaguar research project. In 2010 he coauthored a paper about analyzing camera data with Ron Thompson and a few others. He also currently works as a consultant for Thompson’s non-profit.

Childs was and probably remains a staunch supporter of McCain.

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