How Can Arizona Improve its Image and Conserve Jaguars?

Who hasn't criticized the Arizona Game and Fish Department over their management of the first and only recorded jaguar capture in the history of the state? Ever since the unfortunate death of Macho B, the agency has been the target of severe criticism from federal agencies, environmental organizations, the public at large, and your grandma. The press has been all up in their business. They had to respond.

This week they responded by announcing that they're putting an employee on administrative leave. This may help to cool the jets of the people out there who are looking for someone, anyone, to blame.Perhaps if the department can narrow the focus down to this one person, they'll be off the hook. And they won't have to admit any accountability for the, ahem, incident.

We may never know what really happened during and preceding Macho B's capture. We don't which Mavericks encouraged techs to bait traps with jaguar lure. We don't know how many people were looking the other way- or even encouraging -the field crew to collar any jaguars they caught, without first seeking a federal permit to trap an endangered species. We don't know which Arizona bureaucrats think they're above the federal law. Permit? pshaw. We don't need no stinkin permit (C'mon, Arizonans, you have to admit that we have a teensie tendency toward being a rogue state.... remember Symington?). We don't know whether the field techs were even aware of this technicality, how much experience they have handling animals in the wild, or how much training they received prior to being given the go-ahead.

We do know that the last known jaguar in the U.S. is dead. Many are claiming that AGFD botched the capture and further, that they didn't have to right to capture Macho B in the first place because they lacked a federal permit. The end result has generated a public outcry and in turn a department-wide witchhunt. But I have to ask, does making a scapegoat out of one employee resolve the situation?

I have a few ideas about more satisfying ways that the department could respond. They could own up to their responsibility to both the wildlife and the public-- by admitting that its possible that the department made some mistakes, then take appropriate steps to ensure that they don't repeat them in the future.

Here are a few thoughts on appropriate steps for the future:
1. Ensure that all the proper permits are in place for all field research activities,
2. Design and implement a Capture Protocol that could include but would not be limited to:

a. Allowing only highly trained personnel to perform wildlife field anesthesia,
b. Ensuring that personnel are properly trained to respond to medical emergencies during a wildlife field capture
c. Hiring a wildlife veterinarian that would be available at the very least for a phone call if something goes wrong during a capture-- or better yet
d. Mandating that a wildlife vet accompany the capture crew in the field.

Coming down hard on some poor sucker-- who may have been a product of the department's culture or a merely a victim of their negligence-- isn't going to do anything to protect wildlife from these kinds of fumblings in the future.I think the state should seize this opportunity to improve both their image and future wildlife research projects and management from the top down. Hindsight may be 20/20 but foresight is so much more valuable.

"A witch! A witch! We have found a witch. May we burn her?"

"I'm not a witch. I'm not a witch.
They have dressed me this way."

"Well.....She has got a wart! May we burn her anyway?

"There are ways of telling whether or not she is a witch."

..."If... she... weighs... the same as a duck,... she's made of wood."

"And therefore?

"A witch!"

...."Who are you who are so wise in the ways of science?"

Additional commentary courtesy of
Monty Python.

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