In a reply to the U.S. government charge that the capture of jaguar Macho B lacked a permit, attorney Michael Piccarreta blasted the argument advanced by federal prosecutors to make their case. His reply was filed late yesterday, or Monday.

In a brief filed Jan. 7, prosecutors said that any capture or "take" of Macho B would have been in violation of the State Game and Fish Department's permit to capture endangered species. That's because the purpose of the permit and the various state-federal agreements that went with it was to conserve and protect wildlife.

"Macho B's deteriorating health and euthanization after the take and subsequent release evidences that his take would not have served these ends and therefore would have been outside the scope of the permit," the U.S. attorney's office statement said.

But the legality of Macho B's capture is shown by the lack of prosecution of state or federal officials for their role in the jaguar capture, Piccarreta wrote in his response to the government's reply. He pointed specifically to the government's actions regarding placement and opening of the snare trap that corralled Macho B, or its decisions to radio-collar, release and recapture the animal.

"If the government truly believed there were no permits in effect regarding Macho B, numerous individuals employed by AZGFD and/or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would similarly face prosecution rather than just the whistleblower who disclosed the truth relating to the underlying events."

The tragic fact that things ended badly for Macho B, or that the state and federal governments may not have handled the capture properly, doesn't mean his capture wasn't legal under the state permit and a cooperative endangered species agreement between the state and feds, Piccarreta argued.

"Members of the AZGFD snare project who had seen Macho B's pictures and were aware of his presence in the area believed that he looked healthy and believed that much important scientific information could be gained from his capture and collaring," Piccarreta wrote. "This is by no means meant to excuse, condone or rationalize the actions of individuals working on the AZGFD snare project, as Ms. Brun had nothing to do with AZGFD's snare project."

The hearing on this case before Federal Magistrate Thomas Ferraro starts 9 a.m. -tomorrow, or Wednesday, at the Evo DeConcini Federal Courthouse on 405 W. Congress St. Ferraro's courtroom is on the sixth floor.