The Arizona Attorney General’s Office no longer is actively investigating the Feb. 18 capture and subsequent euthanization of an endangered jaguar.
The state office stopped its investigation soon after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced April 2 it would launch its own criminal investigation of the jaguar capture, said Anne Hilby, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office.
“So we don’t have two agencies doing the same work, we’ve essentially turned it over to them,” Hilby said.
The decision bothered Eva Sargent, southwest director of Defenders of Wildlife, which has sued the Fish and Wildlife Service over its policy on the endangered jaguar. She said the service is not independent enough to be the only agency investigating the capture and subsequent euthanization of the jaguar, known as Macho B.
“We’re really disappointed that the Arizona Attorney General dropped out because they seemed like a disinterested party,” Sargent said.
Two Arizona Game and Fish biologists found Macho B captured in a snare in a remote area northwest of Nogales, Ariz. on Feb. 18. The snares were set as part of a Game and Fish study of bears and mountain lions in the Arizona-Mexico border region.
The biologists checking the snares found the jaguar, sedated him and put a radio collar on him before allowing him to walk away about six hours later. Members of the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project tracked Macho B by Internet. Several days after the capture, the jaguar stopped moving much, and on March 1 a team went looking for him to evaluate his condition.
On March 2, the team was able to recapture Macho B, who was in much worse condition than when initially captured. They flew him to the Phoenix Zoo, where he was determined to have suffered kidney failure and was euthanized.
On March 31, Arizona Game and Fish announced it would investigate the capture. But the next day, April 1, citing new information, the department announced the Attorney General’s Office had agreed to take over the investigation.
The day after that, April 2, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its own criminal investigation. That inquiry is looking into all aspects of the incident from events looking up to the capture, to the decision to euthanize and whether appropriate permits were in order, said Nicholas Chavez, the special agent in charge of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s southwest law-enforcement office in Albuquerque.
The service’s investigation is the top priority for the federal agents pursuing it, he said.
“This will be their main investigation,” Chavez said.
In a written statement about the Attorney General’s decision, Arizona Game and Fish did not object to it.
“The Arizona Game and Fish Department welcomes and is fully cooperating with all federal and state investigations,” the statement said in part (see box for complete statement).
The attorney general’s office will wait to see what the Fish and Wildlife Service inquiry turns up before deciding whether to continue its own investigation, Hilby said.
“If there were unanswered questions, we’d continue,” she said.