Group asks court to stop lion trapping
The Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity filed briefs last week in federal court seeking to prevent the Arizona Game and Fish Department from trapping mountain lions in areas where jaguars have been known to reside.
Michael J. Robinson, a conservation advocate for the center, explained the briefs are part of a lawsuit seeking to stop the Game and Fish from taking actions that it says are likely to injure or kill other jaguars in the future.
“This legal action is necessary, because the Arizona Game and Fish Department continues to claim it has the right to capture jaguars and continues to take actions that risks capturing, injuring or killing a jaguar,” Robinson said.
The brief was filed in response to a motion previously filed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department to have the center's original lawsuit dismissed.
The lawsuit listed four areas where Game and Fish is conducting trapping operations to study mountain lions and black bears: near Tucson, Prescott, Payson and in the western desert near the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.
The Yuma Sun attempted to contact Game and Fish's office in Phoenix, but the call was not returned.
Robinson said he thinks the trapping operation led to the infamous capture and killing of the jaguar known as Macho B last winter.
Arizona Game and Fish Department officials caught Macho B in a wire snare in a rugged area southwest of Tucson on Feb. 18.
Macho B was probably the oldest jaguar known in the wild and the first wild jaguar to be caught in the U.S. He had been photographed around the Arizona-Mexico border since 1996 and was estimated to be 14 to 16 years old.
In March Macho B was recaptured and taken to the Phoenix Zoo, where he was euthanized due to his impaired health.
Although Game and Fish has voluntarily suspended the study in which Macho B was captured, Robinson said the center’s filing also cites Arizona Game and Fish documents claiming that it has the authority to capture jaguars despite not having a federal permit to do so.
Robinson said since jaguars are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act, Game and Fish must obtain what is known as a “incidental take permit" from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which it currently does not have.
“It is pretty straight forward in federal law that they must have this permit," Robinson said. "The permit is critical because it allows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to specify conditions to minimize the likelihood of another unnecessary death of a jaguar.”
Jaguars are the world’s third-largest cat, after the tiger and the lion, and the largest in the western hemisphere. Jaguars historically occurred throughout Arizona as well as elsewhere in the southern tier of U.S. states and continue to occur south through Mexico and Central and South America.
Hunting and poisoning to eliminate threats to livestock resulted in the near extermination of jaguars in the United States, with the last known female jaguar killed in the White Mountains of eastern Arizona in 1963.
In recent years, jaguars have been making a comeback, with male jaguars repeatedly sighted over the past four decades.
“Jaguars need significant protection to make a comeback in this country,” said Robinson. “Setting snares for other big animals without planning for the safety of jaguars is part of an old paradigm that will no longer suffice.”