The Arizona Daily Star filed a lawsuit Wednesday in federal court against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking the criminal investigation documents into the capture and death of a jaguar known as Macho B.
The jaguar died in March 2009 after it was captured in Southern Arizona by state Department of Game and Fish employees who were doing a joint bear-mountain lion study with the wildlife service, according to the lawsuit.
At the time, Macho B was the last known wild jaguar in the United States. The $3 million bear-lion study was "designed to capture and place radio collars on the mountain lions and bears to monitor and document their movements and range," states the lawsuit.
"Although jaguars were not included in the study, at some point researchers discovered Macho B and decided to attempt to capture him," the lawsuit states.
On Feb. 18, Macho B, age 16, was snared in a trap set by researchers. He "suffered serious injuries from his efforts to escape the snare, including severe cuts and swelling to one of his legs and the loss of a canine tooth as he struggled to free himself," states the suit. The jaguar was tranquilized, fitted with a radio collar and freed by researchers.
Days later researchers "discovered he was suffering from trauma associated with his capture and was immobile," according to the suit.
On March 2, researchers recaptured Macho B. "He had lost 20 pounds in less than two weeks and a hind leg was swollen with infection," states the suit. Macho B was flown to the Phoenix Zoo, and he was diagnosed with kidney failure and euthanized, state court documents.
Star reporter Tony Davis requested the completed criminal investigation records under the Freedom of Information Act on May 2011. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released documents, but they have been heavily redacted.
"The Freedom of Information Act provides a means of monitoring the conduct of government officials, and should allow the Star and its readers to review the investigative report," said media and constitutional law attorney David J. Bodney, who is representing the Star.
"There is a strong public interest in monitoring the conduct of a government agency particularly when it purports to investigate itself," Bodney said.
"Now that the investigation is over, the public has an acute right to monitor details that the Fish and Wildlife Service has not seen fit to disclose," he said.
LaRima Lane of the federal agency's FOIA Office in Washington, D.C., could not be reached for comment.
Contact reporter Carmen Duarte at 573-4104 or firstname.lastname@example.org