Jaguar Listing and Habitat Designation Based on Junk Science

JaguarA Freedom of Information Act inquiry has revealed that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) decision to declare portions of Arizona and New Mexico as “Critical Habitat” for the jaguar has no basis in fact. USFWS based its decision on unsubstantiated anecdotal stories that did not meet the Endangered Species Act definition of minimum scientific standards. The inquiry also found possible collusion between an employee of the Arizona Fish and Game Department and the Center for Biological Diversity. The report of the inquiry was written by Biologist/Attorney Dennis Parker. Here is the press release:



In a recent letter to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) the Southern Arizona Cattlemen’s Protective Association (SACPA), the Coalition of Arizona/New Mexico Counties, the Pima Natural Resources Conservation District (NRCD), the Whitewater Draw NRCD, and People for the West strongly urged the agency to reverse its decision that critical habitat is “prudent” for jaguars in Arizona and New Mexico. The letter shows that under the ESA, and based solely on the best science available, habitat “essential” to the jaguar’s existence does not exist in the United States. Furthermore, studies have proven that well managed livestock grazing poses no threat to jaguars or their habitat.

“The Department of Interior just announced a new policy favoring sound science over political misconduct,” said SACPA president Cindy Coping. “To honor their own policy the USFWS must reverse their unsound but politically fashionable decision that won’t help the jaguar and does threaten to destroy hundreds of rural jobs in two states.”

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) inquiry revealed that the agency’s decision relied heavily on a 2005 conference presentation that lacked supporting data and fails to meet the ESA definition of minimum scientific standards.

Another public records search revealed that an employee of the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) authorized a $999.99 payment to the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) to create a jaguar habitat model for New Mexico. The CBD’s model was a substitute for, and produced conclusions far different from, the sound scientific conclusions already published by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. The CBD had a then recent history of publishing maliciously false information about endangered species and livestock grazing. That charge, proven in court, was already a matter of widespread public knowledge when the AGFD employee engaged the CBD to produce a substitute habitat model for New Mexico.

“The payment itself, one cent below the level we understand requires Commission approval, raises serious questions about the AGFD employee’s intentions,” Coping said. “These issues involve authority and abuse of such, improper bias, conflict of interest, and the unprecedented extraterritorial extension of AGFD authority over the State of New Mexico,” wrote Dennis Parker, the wildlife biologist/attorney who authored the comments.” These facts alone warrant suspension of any critical habitat designation for the jaguar in the United States until this serious situation is fully investigated and explained,” he added. At least two of the supposed “verified” jaguars mentioned in the Arizona habitat models were likely not naturally occurring, but rather, animals of foreign origin captured and imported into the United States for the purpose of “guaranteed” hunting. At least 9 such imported jaguars were introduced into New Mexico in 1972 and 1973 alone, including at least one female that escaped. Recent journal published studies from Brazil prove that both the range and numbers of jaguars expanded where domestic livestock were introduced, due to the more dependable prey base. In fact, Brazilian cattle ranches support the highest densities and numbers of jaguars found anywhere. Moreover, both the historic and the recent record of transient jaguar occurrences in the Southwest indicate that modern, highly controlled livestock grazing poses no threat to the few jaguars that sometimes wander across the Mexican border onto neighboring Arizona and New Mexico ranchlands.

All of the citizen organizations represented in the carefully documented letter sent to the USFWS care deeply about the management of landscapes in Arizona and New Mexico where ranching has been and continues to be the dominant land use keeping habitat largely intact and undeveloped for more than 300 years.


For more information, please contact Cindy Coping, SACPA president, at (303) 905-4041.

Read the full 15-page report here.

Some excerpts from the report:

“While one transient male jaguar, Macho B, did roam the borderlands of Arizona and Sonora for more than a decade until last year, his extensive travels prior to his death indicates he was having a difficult time surviving in this dry, rugged region. Moreover, his persistent presence in the borderlands was also artificially induced by the placement of female jaguar scent (in the form of scat of captive females in season) at camera locations on the United States side of the boundary with Mexico.”

“Finally, if Arizona and New Mexico actually qualified as critical habitat, or habitat “essential” to the existence of the jaguar as a species, then both common sense and objective science would necessarily demand that, at a minimum, female jaguars be shown to reside in those States. The facts conclusively show that they do not and that no female jaguar has been shown to occur in Arizona, even on a highly questionable and suspect basis, since 1963. The facts also reveal that no [wild] female jaguar has been verified to have occurred in New Mexico — ever.”

This is just one more example of why we should Repeal the Endangered Species Act.


  1. What is the ratio of scientists to lawyers on the payroll of the Center for Biological Diversity?

  2. As far as I see it, Chilton sees any attempt to get him to change his practices as an infringement on his god given right to graze his cattle where ever he likes. The guy has some seriously deep pockets to keep paying lawyers to fight any and all regulation of his ranching hobby and fight the environmentalists attempts to take over the government or some other paranoia. The fact is environmentalists would prefer cows out to homes, we just want to protect what’s left of the sensitive habitats out there…i.e. water sources…and guys like Chilton don’t.
    I agree the ESA is a poor tool, it should’ve been the Endangered Habitat Act, but that’s the tool we have and we’re going to use it to try and stop the bleeding from over a hundred years of abuse of the land. Remember, we don’t inherent the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.

    1. The Center for Biological Diversity was sued for libel over their false claims about Mr. Chilton’s ranching operation and the court awarded Chilton $100,000 in actual damages and $500,000 in punitive damages. Mr. Chilton is a steward of the land and claims that he and other ranchers are not taking good care of the range are false and proven to be false.

      1. The court found was that those pictures misrepresented those areas photographed, NOT that Chilton or any other rancher are great stewards of the land. Let’s not get carried away.

    2. Yes, we do have a responsibility to proper management of our resources. However, nonsense like this expansion and regulation that ranges from excessive to absurd (ie: the last “significant figure” for dioxin in RCRA air emissions is parts per quintillion) really is detrimental to the people who want to do good.

      Now, the ESA is trying to extend protections beyond the borders of where  jaguars have ever been. This is all pain for absolutely no gain, as you would know if you had actually read the article.

      1. Really? I thought ranchers wanted to raise cattle, not “do good”. And in an age of industrial feed lots, there is more and more pressure on them to put more head out there. If you’ve ever walked out public lands off of the trails, you would know the impact a heard can do…check it out ( you can snap similar pictures on allotments all over southern arizona.

  3. Who woulda’ thunk that liberal organizations would ever libel citizens who oppose their goals,  use junk science, and give out public dollars to surreptitiously promote their agenda, and then with a wink and a nod,  instantly clean up their act by announcing a new policy “favoring” sound science over political misconduct?  Clue: Check out the lib posse’ in D.C. and the person sitting in the White House at the top of the lib’s power pyramid

  4. Is there consideration for the historical range of the Jaguar in adopting them as a protected species under the ESA?  I don’t know a lot about the current intrigue RE: Chilton, CBD, et. al., but my understanding is that up until sometime in the early twentieth century, this area was in the range of the Jaguar. 

    Now, my personal opinion is that both the environment and all the animals (homo sapiens included) living in it would be better off if people would stop eating so much dead animal carcass parts.  The “right” to eat huge quantities of muscle meat, the “right” to raise animals for muscle meat and the christian heritage which says that our species has “dominion” over the planet and everything on it are going to kill us all.   Ranchers like to claim a historical precedent to justify ther activities, why can’t people whose interest is in non-commercial species use this same claim?  

  5. I get it, but I also have a hard time accepting “findings” about “findings” from one group about another group it doesn’t like as reliable information.

  6. I’ve never understood how a species thriving in an extensive range (such as the jaguar which inarguably lives in substantial numbers throughout Central America, South America, and the southern part of North America) can ever credibly be called an “endangered” species. If there are plenty of the species, just how the hell is it endangered?
    Or are we just supposed to swallow without objection the highly dubious notion that if a species ever lived in a region, it must always live in that region — climate and landscape changes be damned?
    The ESA has become a truly absurd policy that is nakedly being used as an alternative to getting what you want through legit democracy.

  7. I believe that the jaguars that Dennis Parker refers to as being “imported” into New Mexico was an illegal guide who put on ‘canned’ hunts.
    Just as I would require of CBD, I would like to see Parker’s research of the data. I highly dislike CBD from their unsavory tactics but i also question som eof the ‘data’ from folks against the designation of the habita. By the way, I DO NOT support the habitat designation for jaguar. I think they have always passed through AZ and historically travel large areas. This does NOT “suggest” as Parker cites, that he was having a hard time finding food. All the jaguars seen by hound men and via trail cameras appeared to be in fine health. So ,everyone, lets stick to fact and not conjecture to beat this designation and CBD as well as Sky Island Alliance.

    1. Kurt has a valid point, and kudos to the scientific skeptics in the world.
      Extensive documentation in support of Parker’s claims regarding the two suspicious jaguars was submitted to the Fish and Wildlife Service among more than 130 pages of attachments that aren’t included in the link to the comments.
      The starting point of suspicion regarding the female jaguar that was killed by a varmint calling hunter in September 1963 and the male killed by a federal trapper in 1964 is the  fact that both these cats were killed at altitudes over 8,000 feet (the 1963 jaguar was killed somewhere between 9,000 and 9,500 feet) in pine habitat where jaguars are not expected to be found. Another factor that does not pass the proverbial smell test is that the 1964 supposedly tropical jaguar was killed in mid-January at high altitude (winter conditions).
      Another fact that raised suspicion is that both jaguars were killed in the interim period between the arrest of a famous “canned” hunting guide and his federal trial. He was charged with three counts of transporting caged mountain lions into Arizona from Utah without first complying with an Arizona game regulation passed by the Game Commission less than a year earlier, requiring a permit to transport wild animals. He did not buy a permit. Committing a wildlife crime involving state lines is a federal crime under the Lacey Act. There was no law at that time against canned hunting. The Endangered Species Act would not exist for another 9 years. But the evidence brought forth in this case pointed clearly to canned hunting and that was discussed at the trial, according to the case file. In addition, the guide was advertising guaranteed lion, jaguar and bear hunts. He offered a money back guarantee that the client would bring home game.
      Beyond that, this was the only guide in all of Arizona history to lead jaguar hunts in the state. Three jaguars, two of which were female (the sex of the third is not documented) were taken in Arizona on hunts led by this guide. One source indicates the same guide led a successful jaguar hunt in Marfa, TX.
      Keep in mind this was the same period of time when the famous Lee Brothers were running a highly successful jaguar hunting business in Mexico. The Lee brothers were from Arizona and never killed a jaguar in the state. Neither did Ben Lilly or Billy Chester, the famous hunters before them.
      Another factor raising suspicion is the location where our “canned  hunting” guide was leading his hunts.  Abundant documentation indicates this guide led  dozens of  hunts between Heber and Young, Arizona during the years and weeks leading up to his arrest. At least two of those hunts started at a location approximately ten miles cross-country from the location where the 1964 jaguar was trapped. At the same time, he was also leading jaguar hunts in Nayarit, Mexico. He additionally kept two mountain lions in captivity that starred in a Disney movie, so we can guess he had facilities for holding big cats.
      Many of the clients of this guide were themselves world-class hunters. Had a naturally occurring jaguar been in the area, with this guide’s jaguar hunting experience and the experience of his clientele, several of whom had also killed jaguars on previous hunts, and considering the amount of time they spent in the immediate area, why were no jaguar tracks reported? Had any been reported, he’d have been after it for money. This guide was in fact one of the most accomplished big cat hunters that ever lived. His bounty record in Arizona for cougars starts in 1949. He killed hundreds of mountain lions and jaguars himself, in addition to leading others. And although he did lead canned hunts, evidence also shows he led  legitimate hunts.
      The tactics of the criminal investigation prior to the 1964 trial destroyed the guide’s Arizona hunting business. (The news media reported that the judge banned him from leading hunts in Arizona for life but the case file does not support the claim). The hunting guide moved to British Honduras (known today as Belize), having been requested to hunt down a jaguar that had killed a small child. From that starting point he re-established a successful jaguar hunting guide business in Belize with famous clients from all over the world and the world’s most accomplished hunters hiring him. That business was destroyed with the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973.
      In 1973 the same guide was convicted a second time  under the Lacey Act (he pleaded guilty at both trials) for leading canned hunts in New Mexico. The jaguar had not yet been listed in the US as an endangered species. The authorities documented 9 imported jaguars, including one female that got away. Notice how he apparently preferred to work with females. In total, at least 13 imported jaguars are documented to this single guide. In a face-to-face interview in August with this hunting guide, Mr. Parker asked about the two jaguars killed above the Mogollon Rim in 1963 and 1964. The old man laughed and said they had to have had a lot of help getting there. He also said the jaguars he released occasionally got away.
      Another hunting guide was convicted in the 1980’s for selling a jaguar skin across the Arizona/New Mexico state line, and there’s suspicion this jaguar was the victim of a canned hunt.
      Mr. Parker’s investigation turned up names of two additional  guides that are alleged to have led canned jaguar hunts in Arizona during the 1960’s. Those two leads are still under investigation. So we have a possibility of eventually documenting at least 16 imported jaguars.
      According to the grandson of Billy Chester, a famous jaguar hunting guide who sold his business to the Lee brothers and died in 1942, Mr. Chester frowned on canned hunting. For him to frown on it means it must have been occurring during the two decades when Mr. Chester was guiding hunts. Mr. Chester’s Arizona ranch is now the Santa Catalina State Park. Chester ‘s jaguar hunts took place 300 miles or more south of the border.
      There’s actually more indication if you look into the skull sizes of jaguars killed in Arizona. Prior to 1930 there are exclusively huge skulls according to the Boone & Crockett records. Beginning around 1960 when jaguar hunting in Central Mexico such as the state of Nayarit, the distribution of skull sizes widened with significantly smaller skulls. The jaguar killed in 1963 was a female with a small skull compared to Arizona jaguar kills prior to 1930. This jaguar’s sex and dimensions suggest it may have been imported from Central Mexico by the same  guide that led other hunts of small-skulled  female jaguars in Arizona.
      While the 1963 jaguar’s origin is suspect, the hunt where it was killed is not suspect. There’s evidence to believe the jaguar was roaming free at the time it was killed and every reason to believe the hunt itself was entirely legitimate. But as you can see there’s plenty of reason to suspect it is not a naturally occurring jaguar. Also, the trapper who killed the 1964 jaguar had seen tracks for some time prior to killing it. However, it is still highly probable that both jaguars were either originally released for canned hunts or were released when a hunting guide realized he needed to keep the authorities from discovering new evidence on which to charge him.

  8. I agree wholeheartedly that the facts, rather than conjecture, should be stuck to here.  Part and parcel of such an approach requires review of what was actually written in the report before questioning the data it cites.  It also means citing statements made in the report correctly.  The report, contrary to Mr. Bahti’s claim, does not state or cite that Macho B was having a hard time finding food.  The report does state that Macho B’s “extensive travels prior to his death indicates he was having a tough time surviving in this dry, rugged region.”  Moreover, if Macho B had been in as good health as the jaguars seen by hound men and via trail cameras as Mr. Bahti’s comment seems to suggest, then wouldn’t have been any reason to euthanize him.

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