AZ: Trapper pleads guilty in jaguar's death
May 14, 2010
So. Ariz. man pleads guilty in jaguar's death
PHOENIX -- A southern Arizona biologist pleaded guilty on Friday to a
misdemeanor federal charge for his role in the 2009 trapping and subsequent
death of a rare jaguar known as "Macho B."
Emil McCain, 31, of Patagonia, entered his plea to illegally "taking" an
endangered species in U.S. District Court in Tucson and was immediately
sentenced to five years probation. McCain was also barred from being
employed or involved in any project or job involving large wild cats,
according to his plea agreement.
McCain worked with the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project, which was
contracted by a joint New Mexico-Arizona jaguar conservation team to study
the elusive big cats.
A Game and Fish employee who worked with McCain has been fired.
A U.S. attorney's office spokesman said the criminal investigation was
ongoing but wouldn't comment on whether others might also be charged.
Another investigation into the matter by the state wildlife department was
Macho B was trapped on Feb. 18, 2009, fitted with a radio collar and
released. Game and Fish initially called it an "inadvertent capture" and a
potential treasure trove for scientists trying to determine if the cats
lived in the U.S. or just were occasional visitors from Mexico.
The jaguar was recaptured due to health problems and euthanized on March
2, 2009. It was the only known wild jaguar in the United States.
It wasn't until several months later that questions began to arise about
whether the jaguar had been intentionally the target of Game and Fish
trappers who were looking for cougars and bears.
According to the plea agreement McCain signed, he placed jaguar scat or
told a woman on the trapping team to place jaguar scat at three snare sites
in an attempt to capture and trap the jaguar.
McCain knew a jaguar had recently been in the remote area between Arivaca
and Nogales and the Game and Fish team he was working with only had
authorization to trap mountain lions and bears for research, his plea
"We now know that McCain acted in a personal capacity to intentionally
capture a jaguar," Arizona Game and Fish said in a statement. "McCain's
admission of guilt supports the Arizona Game and Fish Department's
longstanding assertion that agency personnel did not set out with intention
to capture a jaguar.
"Until the Department has access to the federal investigation, the
Department's own internal investigation continues to be open and ongoing."
McCain's lawyer, Alfred Donau, said his client has already taken a job
out of the country as a wildlife biologist but wouldn't disclose where.
Donau told The Associated Press Friday that while McCain was remorseful the
jaguar had died, the trapping would have had much different results if the
cat had lived because he was seeking scientific data for conservation
"If this jaguar hadn't been the equivalent of 100 years old human age and
he lived it would have been a huge boon to scientific research, because we
would have known with a collar on him whether or not he was from Mexico or
the native range was Arizona," Donau said.
"If the cat hadn't died, there would have been a much different point of
view of what took place here. This isn't a case where somebody went out and
tried to kill an animal."
The largest cats native to the Western hemisphere live primarily in
Mexico, Central and South America. But they're known to roam in southern
Arizona and New Mexico and are the only cat native to North America that
Jaguars were thought to have been eliminated in the U.S. by 1990 until
two were spotted in 1996 in southern Arizona. The capture of Macho B was the
first time one had been trapped in the U.S.
Return to Hunting Accident Index
Fair Use Notice: This document may contain copyrighted material
whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owners. We believe
that this not-for-profit, educational use on the Web constitutes
a fair use of the copyrighted material (as provided for in section
107 of the US Copyright Law). If you wish to use this copyrighted
material for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must
obtain permission from the copyright owner.