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For Immediate Release, July 26, 2010

Contact:  Michael Robinson, (575) 534-0360

Lawsuit Initiated Challenging Federal Permit to Capture, Hurt or Kill Jaguars

SILVER CITY, N.M.—  The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for issuing a permit to the Arizona Game and Fish Department authorizing incidental “take” of endangered jaguars through setting traps and snares. The federal permit was issued without a required conservation plan to ensure that further take of these rare wild cats would not contribute to their extinction. “Take” under the Endangered Species Act refers to killing, trapping or otherwise harming a protected species, and may only occur under specified circumstances.

The Center had previously sued, arguing that Arizona Game and Fish lacked a permit to trap jaguars altogether. Because Fish and Wildlife amended Arizona Game and Fish’s multispecies take permit to include jaguar, the Center filed a motion for voluntary dismissal on Friday, the suit was dismissed as requested today, and the new suit was initiated to challenge the amended permit.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service appears to have learned nothing from the killing of the last known jaguar in the United States, Macho B, just last year,” said Michael Robinson of the Center. “Arizona Game and Fish should not be allowed to risk capturing another jaguar until there’s a clear plan for ensuring the health and conservation of these extremely rare cats.”

Macho B was snared on February 18, 2009 by an Arizona Game and Fish Department contractor, Emil McCain, who was conducting a study of mountain lions and black bears. The jaguar’s health declined rapidly after the snaring, and he was recaptured 12 days later and euthanized. It was later revealed that McCain had illegally baited the trap with female jaguar scat. Although the permit specifies that such baiting will not be permitted, it continues to allow the use of snares of a sufficient size to capture jaguars, which resulted in the death of Macho B as well as two other jaguars in Mexico in recent years.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service appears to have not just given a blank check to Arizona Game and Fish, but also the checkbook and pen,” said Robinson. “The precarious status of jaguars in the United States means extreme caution should be taken to ensure that none are harmed — which is not the case with this permit.”

The Center for Biological Diversity has long advocated for recovery of the jaguar in the United States, where it once ranged as far north as the Grand Canyon and into California, New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana, including suing to get the endangered listing of the cats extended to domestic territory in 1997 and to force Fish and Wildlife to develop a recovery plan and designate critical habitat, which are both still in the works.

“Research that risks harming or killing additional jaguars should not be allowed until a federal recovery team has been formed and can ensure that all necessary precautions are taken,” said Robinson.

Jaguars are the largest feline in the Americas and the third largest in the world after the tiger and the lion. Although the animals are best known from tropical rainforests, fossil evidence shows they originally evolved in North America before spreading to Central and South America. At the time of European colonization, jaguars were reported from California to the Carolinas. Clearing of forests, draining of wetlands, grazing of livestock and killing with traps, poison and guns led to the demise of jaguars until only one, Macho B, was known to live in the United States. He was killed in southern Arizona last year. However, there is still hope that jaguars may return to the United States from Mexico.

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