An Arizona-based environmental group filed suit against the Arizona Game and Fish Department in U.S. District Court in Tucson on Sept. 24, claiming the agency lacked a necessary permit to capture jaguars.
In earlier statements, the agency noted it had a permit to snare and attach a radio collar to a male jaguar named Macho B in February. The jaguar was recaptured and euthanized in March after its health began to fail. Macho B was the last known jaguar in the United States, though the animal’s natural range extends north of the border from Mexico.
The Center for Biological Diversity, which filed the suit, said the agency did not have the necessary permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife. The center has said the stress of capture led to Macho B’s death.
Arizona Game and Fish officials have pointed to old age as a factor. The jaguar was thought to be at least 15 years old.
“Our suit is necessary to protect any jaguars currently in Arizona and those that we hope will live in the state in the future,” Michael Robison of the center stated in a media release.
Under the Endangered Species Act, special permits are needed to capture or kill endangered species, including the jaguar. Macho B was captured in a rugged mountain area south of Tucson.
The center noted that permits issued by Fish and Wildlife contain provisions “minimizing the risk to an endangered species.” A jaguar permit, it added, might require capturing jaguars with specially configured box traps, instead of snares that “can cut off circulation to a limb.”
While declining to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit, Game and Fish officials said they had the required permits for the capture of endangered species. In addition, officials said they ceased the kind of large-animal trapping in the mountainous area that led to the capture of Macho B.
In a prepared statement, Game and Fish officials added: “The department has played a prominent role in the conservation of threatened and endangered species and has allocated significant resources over the years to the conservation and recovery of listed species.”
In an earlier suit filed by the center, a federal judge on March 30 ruled Fish and Wildlife failed to prepare a recovery plan and designate critical habitat for the jaguar.