The same day that the Arizona Game & Fish Department launched an investigation into the capture of the last known wild jaguar in southern Arizona, U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva asked the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to investigate the capture and later euthanization of Macho B.
“While the Arizona Game & Fish Department has stated that it will investigate the circumstances of this case, I strongly feel that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, as the federal agency with responsibility for conservation of endangered species, needs to step in and determine the facts of this case,” Grijalva said Wednesday in a news release.
“It is not enough that the Game & Fish Department investigate its own activities, given what has happened, as they have made it clear that they would not change any aspect of their handling of this animal.”
Grijalva questions the protocol of the initial capture, the factors leading to the jaguar’s recapture, the animal’s health status prior to euthanization and why a more thorough autopsy was not performed.
The director of the state Game & Fish Department declined to give details about new information he said sparked the launch of the state agency’s investigation.
“The department’s investigative protocol requires careful protection of relevant information pending an outcome,” Larry Voyles said in a news release. “But once the process concludes, we will disclose information to the extent allowable by law.”
Macho B was accidentally caught in a Game & Fish snare set to capture bears and mountain lions on Feb. 18. He was released with a radio collar, then recaptured 12 days later after his movements slowed, hinting the aging jaguar was sick.
A Phoenix Zoo veterinarian put Macho B down after determining the animal’s kidneys were failing. Game and Fish was criticized for stressing Macho B by putting a radio collar on him. Stress can cause kidney failure in large cats.
Some environmentalists believe the stress of capture and collaring caused Macho B’s death.
“It was a high-risk activity, and they knew that,” said Randy Serraglio, a conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity.
Serraglio offered the comment at a March 5 protest “memorial service” for Macho B. About three dozen people attended the protest outside Game & Fish’s Tucson office.
The center this week won a lawsuit aimed at reversing U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service decisions not to designate critical habitat or create a recovery plan for jaguars. A federal judge ordered the agency to revisit the decisions by Jan. 8.
Game & Fish officials could not be reached Wednesday for comment.
By Ryn Gargulinski, B. William Poole