Monday, April 13, 2009

Arizona: Legal win for jaguars too late for Macho B

April 13, 2009

By John Collins Rudolf

March 31 should have been a good day for Arizona wildlife lovers. That's when a federal judge in Tucson struck down the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s do-nothing jaguar policy, and ordered them to return in nine months with a jaguar habitat and recovery plan — or some compelling new reasons why not to protect the big cat.

Instead, all most of us heard about was the sad saga of Macho B. — possibly the last wild jaguar in the United States, who was euthanized by Arizona wildlife authorities after he was captured near the Mexican border.

The Arizona Daily Star, which has been on this story like white on rice, has another massive piece about Macho in today's paper, detailing apparent shortcomings in the state's endangered animal capture methods. Check it here.

Probably the most awful detail in this latest piece by the Star is the fact that because the traps being used by AZGF lacked any kind of transmitter or alarm, Macho B. — who was most active at night — struggled for as long as 12 hours after being captured.

As for the recent federal ruling, it will be interesting to see what Fish and Wildlife comes up with. Should we restore jaguar habitat in the Arizona? Reintroduce breeding pairs raised in captivity, a la the Mexican gray wolf?

In theory, it sounds great. But it won't happen without a fight, one that could make the battle over the gray wolf look mild by comparison. The fact is, jaguars are big, hungry cats that roam all over the place eating what they please. And it's just inevitable that even if they were reintroduced in miniscule numbers — say, a dozen or so — it would not be long before they came in conflict with the ranching interests that rule the Western states.

Just here in Arizona, we’ve got a million head of cattle — and until February, one resident jaguar. Now that’s down to zero. Sound a little lopsided?


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