Biologist pleads guilty to luring America's last jaguar to trap

Emil McCain pleads guilty to a misdemeanor crime: illegal take of an endangered species-

Jaguar trapper guilty. Arizona Daily Star



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  1. Ron Kearns Avatar
    Ron Kearns

    The $1,000.00 fine is approximately equivalent to the fees of about several days’ work for a criminal defense attorney and the 5 years’ probation is an unlikely deterrent to others who might consider violating any wildlife law, especially one involving an Endangered Species Act violation.

    Macho B was an ESA species and the Federal government only placed his value at $1000; however, an Arizona hunter who recently illegally harvested 1-6×6 trophy bull elk was levied a civil assessment by the AGF Commission of $8,000.00. Therefore, an Arizona *game* animal—in this example—is worth 8 times the monetary value of an exceptionally rare endangered species within Arizona.

    1. Ron Kearns Avatar
      Ron Kearns

      This is a companion Arizona Daily Star article from today.

      In plea, McCain admits telling co-worker to attempt to lure Macho B to snare site
      Jaguar trapper guilty

    2. Jon Avatar

      Ron, I haven’t read the whole story about this, but why was the jaguar trapped in the first place?

    3. Ron Kearns Avatar
      Ron Kearns

      Jon et al.

      The brief version of “why was the jaguar trapped in the first place” is most likely that Mr. Emil McCain sought the increased recognition from the worldwide “big cat” scientific community that his involvement in the capture of an elusive, rare, endangered species would garner.

      McCain took the illegal opportunity to ‘lure’ the big cat into a snare trap with female jaguar scent bait because of recent photographs of Macho B taken at camera traps that confirmed his presence in the area. There was a jaguar-specific GPS-radio collar available ‘just in case’ of the occurrence of an incidental/accidental capture of *any* jaguar that might *wander* into a number of snare traps designed to capture mountain lions and/or bears in an ongoing AGFD research project in the area where one or more jaguars were known to have roamed.

      McCain’s deceptive and illegal plan worked. A 16-year-old jaguar that should have never been snared, because of his agedness and the potential for stress-related illnesses, was left in the trap unattended for up to 14 hours under adverse conditions.

      Thereafter, a cascading set of errors occurred by AGFD professional wildlife biologists, AGFD/USFWS administrators, and zoological veterinarians that lead to a decision to euthanize Macho B because of a diagnosis of acute, irreversible renal failure, which was disputed by several other experienced wildlife veterinarian pathologists.

      Reportedly, the USFWS—inexplicably so—did not authorize a full, conclusive necropsy to verify the exact cause of death. In lieu of that, the veterinarians performed a “cosmetic” necropsy that allowed for the undamaged preservation of the jaguar’s pelt. Therefore, a taxidermist can mount Macho B for perpetuity; however, we will never know from definitive scientific/pathological evidence whether or not his condition could have likely been reversed because the euthanization decision occurred within an hour or so of what I consider too little veterinary medical care to extend his life.

      I base my last comments on my experience as a former senior veterinary animal specialist, as a retired wildlife biologist, from the conflicting reports by veterinary pathologists, and additional comments by other wildlife veterinarians.

  2. mikepost Avatar

    Ron, were those pathologists present at either the capture or the necropsy, or is this arm chair opinion?

    1. Ron Kearns Avatar
      Ron Kearns


      Two D.V.M. pathologists, one with additional Ph.D. credentials, who both worked for a fully accredited veterinary diagnostic lab, analyzed renal tissue samples of Macho B sent to them by the zoo.

      Intravenous fluids should have been administered over a day or two in attempts to stabilize him instead of making such a hasty diagnosis within an hour or so and then euthanize an animal that was healthy before the intentional capture that traumatized him.

    2. cc Avatar

      According to the Inspector General’s report, 6 out of 7 very qualified experts determined the cat did have irreversible kidney failure and needed to be euthanized. None of these experts was affiliated with the AZGFD.

      Thinking you can have a wild jaguar with kidney problems hooked up to IV fluids for a day or two is unrealistic.

    3. Ron Kearns Avatar
      Ron Kearns


      Do you have any direct personal experience in veterinary medicine at any level?

      The first effort should have been to attempt stabilization through aggressive IVs and then transitioning to subcutaneous fluid administration. This would have allowed time for the full and complete assessment of Macho B’s condition and intervention by other veterinarians who specialized in veterinary nephrology.

      The principal tenet in all fields of medicine is to save lives whenever possible. Euthanizing a rare endangered species after just an hour or so of cursory medical treatment is unconscionable and I consider such actions a violation of medical ethics.

    4. cc Avatar

      The 6 out of 7 most qualified veterinary experts, the ones who actually dealt with the animal, decided based on blood results and a physical exam that the jaguar’s condition was irreversible and should be euthanized. They did not rush the decision nor base it solely on blood results. They also recognized the difference between sedating, keeping captive and treating an old, suffering, wild jaguar versus doing the same for a domestic cat.

      Here’s the IG report:

      When it comes to treating animals, everyone has an opinion. You used to be a vet, good for you. But the folks who made the decision are current vets with big cat experience and direct involvement with this jaguar. There’s a lot to be upset about concerning this jaguar, but you’re unfairly criticizing people more qualified than you who had direct experience with the cat.

  3. Peter Avatar

    Emil McCain is the best jaguar biologist in United States and it is not fear that the community permit all of this damage to him. He worked so hard and for any money for jaguars for a long time. Nobody was caring about macho b, only him. He is an hero and we all have to thank him all he did for this old-sick jaguar during all these years, he is not the guilty of his death. He didn´t euthanize that jaguar. He is only guilty for let us know that a jaguar was in our country. If macho b was alive there would be another situation, and this is not fear. We are looking foward to see you again working with large carnivores. THANK YOU SO MUCH EMIL and CONGRATULATION FOR ALL YOUR WORK DONE, JUST AMAZING!

    1. MJ Graham Avatar

      Sorry, Peter, if McCain is the ethical savior of jaguars you claim him to be, he would not have trapped the animal illegally. Secondly, he certainly would not have left the trap unattended for such a long period of time, putting the jaguar under extreme stress. Any animal rehabilitator knows that stress is the number one killer of captured wild animals. One would expect much more from a biologist.

    2. jon Avatar

      I couldn’t have said it better MJ.

    3. Ron Kearns Avatar
      Ron Kearns

      Within a 7-year period from 2002 to 2009 when 3 captured jaguars died in the Arizona-Sonora region, Mr. McCain was involved in 2 of those jaguar deaths (2003 and 2009). Additionally, during one of his other capture/collaring efforts in 2003; “the jaguar had slipped out of the collar” about 6 months after collaring. Do McCain and others know what happened to or what became of that jaguar? Therefore, 3 out of 3 jaguar capturing/collaring efforts by Mr. McCain failed and at least 2 of the 3 efforts were fatal to Arizona-Sonora jaguars.

      Four jaguar captures, three deaths


      April 1, 2003: Rancho Los Pavos, Sonora

      “Avila and McCain trapped a male jaguar in Rancho Los Pavos, a few miles from where the female had been captured. It was an extremely hot day for that time of year, nearing 100 degrees.

      The two biologists had already trapped mountain lions as part of the research, but they said in e-mails they were woefully unprepared for the jaguar capture. They used a blowgun and a “jab stick” to try to sedate the jaguar, which lunged at them.

      They put a radio collar on the jaguar, but it died. McCain concluded that the heat of that day and the difficulty sedating the animal combined to cause the death.”

      End Quote}

    4. mikarooni Avatar

      This one guy is really responsible for at least two and maybe three out of the three cats he has handled over the past seven years? Really? Good grief, if so and given how few cats there are in AZ, he’s practically a one man extinction squad! At this point, he truly should recuse himself from further contact with live jaguars, if only just out of personal humiliation. And, Peter, your posting appears to be a really bad and uncouth hispanic imitation. Shame on you.

    5. mikarooni Avatar

      It should have read “responsible for the deaths of at least two and maybe three out of the three cats he has handled over the past seven years…”

  4. mikarooni Avatar

    The latest I heard was that McCain is now requesting a retrial on the grounds that he thought the jaguar was an illegal alien and, under the provisions of AZ law, was duty bound to detain it in order to check its papers.

  5. Jon Avatar

    How this guy still has a job is beyond me. He should be fired. Sad thing is he is supposed to be a jaguar biologist, but he has involvement with atleast 2 jaguar deaths.

  6. Ron Kearns Avatar
    Ron Kearns

    Arivaca woman is person who revealed possible wrongdoing
    2nd person charged in jaguar snaring

    StoryTim Steller Arizona Daily Star | Posted: Tuesday, May 18, 2010 12:00 am

  7. Demarcated Landscapes Avatar

    McCain may have been the go-to guy for SW jaguars, but he was really just a big fish in a small pond (and he sought to keep it that way). As for him being the only one who truly cared, we respectfully beg to differ (while biting our lip). A lot of people truly cared- but not everyone cared to risk Macho B’s life for some grants and glory.

    Sure- this could have gone differently- but it didn’t. McCain’s actions in the past year have been reprehensible- he lied to investigators, tried to cover up the evidence, influenced witnesses, and acted like he was above the Endangered Species Act. Not exactly a paragon of virtue, dead jag or no.

  8. Lisa LeBlanc Avatar
    Lisa LeBlanc

    Forgive me if I wax all girly & emote a little but this guy’s arrogance and ‘whatever it takes’ attitude killed not just one RARE predator but 3, which leads me to believe he’s either got very bad Jaguar Juju or he’s become a Field Vivesectionist.
    In any other profession, if your idiocy & ego had resulted in in irreparable damage or harm on THREE separate occasions, would it not be prudent to maybe reassess your choice of vocation?
    Well, not to worry; he should survive his punishment nicely and be up and runnin’ in no time at all. Perhaps we can post his picture and scent on rocks and such in the Southwest Desert as a warning to any big cats unfortunate enough to cross into his sphere of interest.
    Poor ol’ Macho B; a pinnacle predator snared into an ignominious end when he should have been able to wander into the desert and meet his Maker on his own terms.

  9. Ron Kearns Avatar
    Ron Kearns

    Jaguar’s trapping was criminal act, not just tragedy
    May. 20, 2010 12:00 AM
    The Arizona Republic

    Read more:

    “The death of this jaguar was senseless. But it focused public attention on the importance of paying close attention to how wild creatures are managed in our state.”


    The preceding statement from the ‘editorial’ is important because the Republic most often sides with AGFD decisions, as they did with the hasty killing of Kofa GPS-collared lion KM04 by the Department in Sept. 2009 per the Republic’s editorial support of that action.

  10. Ron Kearns Avatar
    Ron Kearns


    Woman who exposed deliberate capture of Arizona jaguar appears in court

    The woman who first revealed the capture of the last known jaguar in the United States known as Macho B was deliberate, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to federal charges that she violated the Endangered Species Act.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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