Whistling for the Jaguar

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

Archive for the tag “wildlife conservation”

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.



Now Available

Cloak and Jaguar is now available in paperback and e-book via Amazon. Just click the link below to view the book’s product page and hopefully order a copy! Thank you



Basic Talk

While doing some research I came across this article.

It is a thought provoker concerning the most intrusive but accepted methodology in wildlife research, capturing animals. Macho B’s capture is a highlighted example to the preface of the essay.

Five Years

Because of Macho B we have the knowledge of what jaguar “conservation” truly means in Arizona and thus, the U.S.   Because of him,


We can protect him,

Jaguar 2012-10-25

It is past time to get AZGFD out of endangered carnivore “conservation.” It is time to shatter the incestuous world of wildlife conservation in Arizona. It is way past time to hold AZGFD and USFWS accountable for all they have not done to protect jaguars and other species (mainly carnivores) and all they did to contribute to Macho B’s snaring and death. If you have an idea on how to accomplish these goals please contact me (whistlingforthejaguar@yahoo.com) or please contact whomever to get the ball rolling. If you have information on how these agencies failed to protect any species and/or may have been complicit in their injury or death please speak out; either here or somewhere. It is time to act. Will you join me?

Cloak and Jaguar

I have finally finished the first draft of my book, Cloak and Jaguar.  I am in the process of putting together a proposal to send to agents and publishers as I begin the search for support and a home for my manuscript.  It is just the beginning of a probable long journey of  rejections, re-writes, edits, and “killing my darlings.”

Here is a preview, Cloak & Jaguar

Thanks goes to Dexter Oliver for his edits.

Scent Lures

Part One:

McCain joined BJDP in 2004.  Sometime between 2004-2005 McCain started using female jaguar scat, obtained from the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, as a scent lure to be placed in front of the  BJDP cameras in hopes it would lure a jaguar in to be photographed. I found out while preparing for my trial that neither McCain or Childs obtained a permit for the use of scat or attempted to amend BJDP’s endangered species permit to include the use of scat as a scent lure. According to several USFWS employees, this was a violation of BJDP’s permit and could technically constitute a “take” violation of the Endangered Species Act.  Macho A and Macho B were both photographed in this time period but both had been documented previously; before McCain and before scat. Unfortunately a field log was not consistently kept so it was never determined when and where scat had been placed in relation to any jaguar documentations.

I began working with McCain in January 2006. At that time the only scent lure used was a skunk based one. At this point Macho A had not been documented in close to two years but Macho B was hanging around in the southern portion of his territory close to and on the US-MX border. Macho B was documented down south through May and then he moved forty miles north to the area where I had just set a camera (and the area where my dogs and I first encountered Macho B in 1999). Macho B was documented here from September 2006 to early April 2007 on a consistent basis. The cameras captured him monthly, sometimes 2-3 times a month. He was also captured on film and video marking his territory for the first time. No scat of any kind was used up to this point.

Then on April 16, 2007 McCain and I went to this area to set a new camera and he brought what he said was jaguar scat leftover from when he had used it years previously. It had been stored in a plastic tub in the freezer which apparently preserved it. The new camera site was down the trail a couple hundred yards from the original camera site I had set.  The last time we checked cameras here we had observed claw scratches on a mesquite tree at this new site, and I had found a scrape at the tree’s base that winter.  We set the new camera up and McCain dumped the scat at the base of the tree. Scat would not be used again at BJDP camera sites until the following year in December.

Five days later Macho B was back in the area for his monthly visit. He was documented first at the original camera site on April 21. The next day he was photographed at another camera site I had set at the beginning of the trail roughly 3/4 mile away and then he was back at the original camera site on April 25 (both cameras had documented him before). The camera where the scat had been placed wasn’t working as McCain found out on April 28 when he returned to the area with a reporter. Nevertheless, Macho B disappeared from this area that he had been consistently using for the past eight months. He wasn’t documented here again until July 25. His picture and video were taken at the mesquite tree where the scat had been placed over three months prior. His picture was captured first and showed him sprawled against the mesquite. Next the video kicked in and documented him scratching the tree then jumping down to the ground, then sniffing the possible remnants of the scat, and then going back to the tree snag where I had poured the skunk based lure two weeks prior and rubbing his cheeks. These were the last images captured of Macho B in this portion of his territory. His tracks were  found one more time in this area over a year later in December 2008. Scat, it seemed, was not an attractant scent lure for Macho B, but rather a deterrent.

Jag Collar

“We should have our GPS collar in hand soon. Looking forward to attaching it to some lucky jaguar.” Email from Jack Childs (BJDP) to Bill Van Pelt and another AZGFD employee whose name is redacted on 1-31-08. The day before McCain had emailed Van Pelt and the same redacted AZGFD employee inquiring what the new AZGFD Director’s (Larry Voyles) “temp was on collaring a jag.”

In September 2007, Blake Henke, managing partner of North Star Science and Technology, saw McCain’s presentation on BJDP at a Wildlife Society meeting in Tucson, AZ. In the meeting McCain stated he wanted to radio collar a jaguar named Macho B. Henke met McCain after his presentation and offered to donate a GPS radio collar to the cause including tracking software, airtime for the collar, and access to the technicians at North Star. McCain accepted his generous offer.

When McCain joined the AZGFD lion and bear snaring project he brought the donated jaguar collar with him.

During the three month hiatus in the snaring project McCain emailed Henke about getting a software upgrade for the jaguar collar and included info on a recently collared female lion for the AZGFD project. The lion was wearing a North Star collar (AZGFD was a client) and McCain stated “Now we need to do it with a jaguar.”

On 12-18-08 McCain emailed Henke, “here is the latest shot of that AZ jag I want to put it (the collar) on.”

On 1-11-09 McCain thanked Henke for installing a VHF radio frequency on the collar; “Thanks a million. Now all it (sic) gotta do is catch that cat!”

On 2-13-09 McCain sent Henke another email thanking him for sending the collar back so fast and “I also wanted you to know that we have again started trapping and that there is fresh jaguar sign in the area.”

In an email chain from Feb. 14-16. McCain wrote to Henke and his AZGFD co-worker Smith, “at this point 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 once in a lifetime chance to collar a AZ jag. I think it is prudent to be 100% sure the collar is on.”

On 2-18-09 McCain emails Henke in regard to Macho B, “I sure hope that we can get that collar on that guy. I assure you we will do our best.”

And in an email chain from Feb.20-23 McCain writes to Henke, ” Now that collar is really working! It is on the animal!”

After Macho B was euthanized the collar was returned to McCain. He, in turn, took it with him to the Yucatan two months later for a jaguar project his snaring “boss” Ron Thompson was involved with. Macho B’s collar was attached to a late addition to the project, a young female jaguar. She was apparently drugged three times in a twenty-four hour period before her release; first for dental surgery, second after escaping her enclosure after surgery, and three, for her release in front of media into a place where she had never been (a hard release) that already had a stable population of jaguars (See blog roll for Peter Emily Foundation and AZ Daily Star articles about project. The second jag mentioned was killed months later by locals). McCain and others from the field team found the young jaguar, dead, ten days after her release without a noticeable mark on her. They left her as she lay minus Macho B’s collar.

Below is Macho B with the donated collar at his capture site.

Macho B

Lion and Bear Snaring Project: Part 3

So why wasn’t an EAC done? AZGFD personnel were aware of the history of jaguar presence when snares were first activated for the project by McCain (whom also happened to be the biologist for the jaguar detection project on which I worked). AZGFD personnel and USFWS “jaguar lead” biologist, Erin Fernandez, were all made aware by McCain (through his duties as biologist for jaguar project) about Macho B’s presence and most of these people were aware that Macho B had been documented near the snares and actually on the snare trap line.  Several AZGFD employees (including Ms. O’Brien) and Ms. Fernandez were even forwarded and blind copied on emails from a vet that McCain and Smith had gone to seeking drug advice and dosage for a jaguar capture. There was even a three month lull in the snaring project when the field team was awaiting more telemetry collars in which an EAC could have been initiated. Ms. Fernandez also could have taken this opportunity to ask AZGFD why she had not received a request for a Section 7 consultation. Section 7’s were apart of her job and she was the Jaguar Lead. It might not have been her legal responsibility to seek out AZGFD on this topic but it was certainly her professional one since she had knowledge of Macho B’s presence in the snaring area.

Ms. O’Brien thought the ultimate responsibility for completing an EAC was her own, and stated “guidance on EA process was lacking in her department from the Habitat Branch of the AZGFD that oversees the EA process.” She further stated, “she has to go to the Habitat Branch and inform them of the project to initiate an EA process. These matters put a hold on all snaring activities by AZGFD because of possible impacts to other endangered wildlife.” Yet, she goes on to say she is “unclear of the EA checklist process” and the “Wildlife Management Division has recognized that’s an area of not having good guidance.”

An Ea was discussed internally in AZGFD “in case we catch one with spots” but there was never a follow through into completing one.

If AZGFD and USFWS are legally responsible for the conservation and protection of all species found in Arizona, yet they cannot complete legally mandated checklists, how is the public to trust them? It is not like these agencies, laws, and checklists were born yesterday. They’ve been around for decades. What is the effect of this lack of trust (if it exists) on the agencies, the public, and the wildlife and habitats of Arizona? Has AZGFD completed an EAC and initiated a Section 7 consultation with USFWS for the lion and bear snaring project yet? AZGFD has maintained that they plan to continue on with the snaring project and a new jaguar was recently documented in southern Arizona.

Lion and Bear Snaring Project; Part 2


Another AZGFD employee, Ginger Ritter of the Habitat Branch, confirmed AZGFD’s responsibility for completing an EAC for the lion/bear project.  According to her:  The lion/bear study initially began as a genetic study involving black bears where only hair samples were collected. As study developed, it included the capture of lions and bears for the purpose of placing telemetry collars on them. The new endeavor should have been reported to the Habitat Branch Project Evaluation Program for peer review by the project proponent. Failure to complete the addendum to the existing EAC by AZGFD prevented the USFWS/Federal Aid to conduct an Endangered Species Act Section 7 Consultation.

It is important to remember that AZGFD NEVER did an EAC for the lion/bear project, therefore, an addendum could not have been added to it.

From a USFWS interview: The AZGFD and USFWS were under an agreement called the Comprehensive Management System (CMS) for the federal funding of state wildlife studies and projects (From how I understand the CMS, AZGFD was given a block amount of money from Federal Aid that would be distributed to fund various AZGFD projects and studies if the AZGFD Commission approved the project/study. This system replaced AZGFD having to submit a grant proposal to Federal Aid for each individual project). Environmental compliance mandates including Section 7 consultation, under the Endangered Species Act, must be met. The lion/bear study was given money through this program. Neither an EA (Environmental Assessment) or Section 7 was completed by AZGFD.

Not completing a Section 7 consultation when it is mandated, such as the lion/bear study, is a violation of the Endangered Species Act, a federal law.

Directly from the AZGFD CMU dated July 1, 2007-June 30, 2013, it states on p.9, under the heading, Endangered Species: The responsibility for reviewing proposed jobs for possible impacts to federal listed endangered and threatened species is assigned to the Department’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Branch. This step is part of our EA 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.

Yet, AZGFD blamed USFWS for not having a Section 7 consultation on the lion/bear project.

Concurrent with the USFWS investigation into Macho B’s snaring and death was an Office of the Inspector General investigation into the same matter. The OIG report found: that the AZGFD was aware of Macho B’s presence in the vicinity of its mountain lion and black bear study in late December and January 2009, yet it did not consult with FWS, as required by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973.

The AZGFD response was: FWS, not AGFD, is responsible for determining whether ESA Section 7 consultation on take of federally listed species is required for federally funded studies conducted by AGFD. (The complete OIG report with AZGFD responses can be found under the blogroll)

Apparently, whomever wrote the responses to the OIG report wasn’t aware of their CMU agreement with USFWS/Federal Aid or that an EAC was never completed for the lion/bear study. The EAC is the step BEFORE a Section 7 consultation and actually initiates said consultation if it is determined through an EAC that a federally funded AZGFD project may affect an endangered or threatened species.

Bottom Line: The EAC and Section 7 consultation should and could have been the first line of defense from having snares placed in an area with a known jaguar history and/or from having snares activated in an area where Macho B had been documented two weeks prior.

No employee from AZGFD, nor the agency itself, has been held responsible for breaking the federal law known as the Endangered Species Act.

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