TUCSON (CN) - A report on the death of what may have been the oldest wild jaguar in Arizona says a subcontractor - and possibly an Arizona Game and Fish Department employee - may be criminally responsible for the big cat's death. The Jan. 19 report by the U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Inspector General examines the death of "Macho B," which was captured, released, captured again and euthanized.
The report exonerates any federal employees from criminal involvement in the February 2009 capture and death of the borderland jaguar.
State game and fish employees, however, failed to consult with federal counterparts for a "biological opinion" when they learned that the jaguar was near a mountain lion and black bear study area and could be accidentally captured. Such consultation is required by the Endangered Species Act, the report says.
"Evidence suggests that the subcontractor and employees of the AZGFD knew that Macho B was in the area of the mountain lion and black bear study," the report states. It adds that "neither the subcontractor nor AZGFD were authorized to either intentionally or incidentally snare a jaguar" without a proper permit.
"Macho B" was one of two male jaguars that had been photographed several times in the wild borderlands of Southern Arizona since 1996.
In February 2009, trackers captured the big cat with a leghold snare meant for mountain lions, to try to track the elusive animal and learn of its movements. Biologists fitted the jaguar with a GPS collar tracking device, but soon learned from the collar that Macho B was not moving normally. Veterinarians searched for the cat and found he was suffering from kidney failure. He was later euthanized.
In May 2009, Congressmen Raul M. Grijalva, D-Az., and Nick Rahall II, D-W.V., requested an investigation into the capture and death of the jaguar.
A prosecutor from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tucson is evaluating the evidence, according to the report.
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