For Immediate Release, April 30, 2010
Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 534-0360
Lawsuit Launched to Protect Jaguars and Ocelots From Government Traps, Snares, and Poisons
Silver City, N.M.— Today the Center for Biological Diversity formally notified the predator-control branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services, that it will file suit over Wildlife Services’ traps, snares, and poisons, which risk injuring or killing endangered jaguars and ocelots in the Southwest.
To protect jaguars and ocelots, the Center is seeking a halt to animal-killing activities that Wildlife Services conducts on behalf of the livestock industry throughout much of southern and central Arizona and New Mexico.
“Jaguars have pitifully poor protection, both in areas where they’ve recently lived and in their historical range,” said Michael Robinson of the Center. “And in Arizona, ocelots have no protection whatsoever from government predator control. Both these beautiful wildcat species became highly imperiled in the first place partly because of government persecution, and risking the lives of the last remnants of these species in the course of killing cougars, bears, coyotes, or bobcats perpetuates a cruel and illegal policy.”
Wildlife Services is required by the Endangered Species Act to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, within the Department of the Interior, on any of its activities that may affect endangered species. Its 1999 consultation on predator-control effects on jaguars resulted in a formal biological opinion document that authorized the inadvertent killing of one jaguar, so long as Wildlife Services attempted to avoid said killing and adhered to mandatory terms and conditions intended to minimize the risk.
The terms and conditions include not using poisons and minimizing use of traps and snares within “occupied habitat,” as delineated on maps. But official occupied habitat is a small part of the landscape jaguars may roam.
Background on today’s notice of intent to sue
Today’s notice of intent to sue points out that the 1999 biological opinion, which delineates occupied habitat in only a few mountain ranges constituting a small proportion of the Sky Islands region, is woefully out of date. Nine studies and reports in the intervening decade suggest, and in several instances explicitly map out, a much broader region where jaguars may live. But any jaguars in these areas receive only lip service, and no effective safeguards against federal predator killing.
Wildlife Services is not even curtailed in its lethal work in the areas south of Tucson where Macho B and at least one other jaguar lived for many years, which other jaguars may be expected to colonize.
Ocelots have not received the benefit of any consultation between Wildlife Services and Fish and Wildlife regarding the former’s traps, snares, and poisons in Arizona. For that reason, ocelots are unprotected on the ground though the law requires their protection.
In November 2009, an ocelot was photographed in Cochise County, Arizona. And this month an ocelot was run over by a vehicle near Globe, Arizona – the first two of these secretive animals to be confirmed in Arizona since 1964.
Background on jaguars and ocelots
Jaguars are the largest feline native to the New World and the third-largest cat (after the tiger and lion) globally; usually golden with dark semicircle rosettes, they evolved in North America before colonizing Central and South America. Ocelots are also a spotted cat, but closer in size to a bobcat, and like jaguars, were also targeted by fur hunters and despised as predators.
The Center for Biological Diversity’s advocacy and litigation was responsible for the jaguar’s protection as an endangered species in the United States in 1997, and for compelling the Fish and Wildlife Service this year to reverse course and decide to prepare a recovery plan for jaguars and to protect their habitats – neither of which has yet been completed.