Center for Biological Diversity takes first step in lawsuit against the Arizona Game and Fish Department for the illegal killing of Macho B and to prevent capture of another jaguar
May 20, 2009
TUCSON – The Center for Biological Diversity sent a formal 60-day notice of intent to sue today to the Arizona Game and Fish Department for violating the Endangered Species Act by illegally “taking” the jaguar, Macho B, in order to prevent further harm to jaguars by the Department’s reckless capture practices. Macho B was captured on February 18, 2009 in southern Arizona’s mountains, outfitted with a radio collar, and released onsite, then re-captured and euthanized on March 2. According to more than one veterinarian, his capture contributed to his death.
”The death of Macho B was a tragedy that should never have happened,” said Michael Robinson, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. “We are taking action today to ensure that no more jaguars are captured like Macho B.”
Arizona Game and Fish has repeatedly stated its intention to capture additional jaguars in the United States using snares – this despite the fact that in addition to the death of Macho B, two out of three attempts in recent years to capture jaguars in northern Mexico utilizing similar methods resulted in the deaths of the animals, and in the third attempt the animal’s fate is unknown. The Department has not provided assurances it will use different methods in future captures or more importantly, that it can safely capture jaguars for research purposes.
“Because of the small number of northern jaguars, mortality of even one jaguar is a travesty,” said Robinson. “It also violates the law.”
“Take” of an endangered species, which includes actions that “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect” endangered species, is illegal under Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act. Section 10 of the Act allows exceptions to the take prohibition under some circumstances. Permits issued under authority of Section 10(a)(1)(A) allow deliberate take for purposes of research and conservation of endangered species. Section 10(a)(1)(B) permits allow take that is not deliberate but rather incidental to otherwise lawful activity.
Macho B was snared as part of a study on mountain lions and black bears that had the potential for incidental capture of jaguars. Arizona Game and Fish does not have the requisite incidental take permit for this study. Instead, the Department has a permit that covers deliberate take of a number of endangered species in the state, but not specifically the jaguar. Evidence has since come to light that individuals involved in the study may have been purposefully setting traps in an area where they knew there were jaguar and may have even baited the trap with female jaguar scat. Such activities are not covered by the Department’s permit because it does not cover jaguar and because the stated intent of the study was not to deliberately capture jaguars.
“Arizona Game and Fish’s actions resulting in the capture of Macho B are a clear violation of the Endangered Species Act and should never have occurred,” said Robinson. “The loss of the last known wild jaguar in the United States was tragic for the animal and a terrible setback for recovery.”
Jaguars are the largest cat native to North America and the third largest cat globally. Originally found from California to the Carolinas, jaguars were hunted to near extinction in the United States. Jaguars were added to the U.S. list of endangered species in 1997, following litigation by the Center. A March 30, 2009 ruling in another Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit struck down the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to develop a recovery plan and designate critical habitat for jaguars.