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Wildlife Groups Seek to Protect Endangered Jaguar’s Critical Habitat

April 7, 2014
Bethany Cotton 503.327.4923
In This Release
Monday, April 7, 2014
Wildlife Groups Seek to Protect Endangered Jaguar’s Critical Habitat

Lethal Management Techniques Conducted in Cat’s Habitat
Contact: Bethany Cotton 503.327.4923

Additional Contacts:

TaraZuardo, Animal Welfare Institute, 202-446-2148, tara@awionline.org

JohnMellgren, Western Environmental Law Center, 541-359-0990, mellgren@westernlaw.org

Tucson, AZ- The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and WildEarth Guardians (Guardians) havenotified the United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Servicesprogram of their intent to sue over the program’s failure to ensure that itsactivities do not harm rare and endangered jaguars or their critical habitat inviolation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Western Environmental LawCenter (WELC) sent the required 60-daynotice on behalf of AWI and Guardians.

Historically,jaguars—the largest cat species in the Western Hemisphere—were found inCalifornia, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and possibly as far east as Louisiana.During the 19th and early 20th centuries, these big catswere extirpated from California and Texas, and nearly eradicated from Arizonaand New Mexico. This resulted in an endangered species listing for the jaguaracross a portion of their range in 1972 and across their entire range in 1997. Between1996 and 2011, either five or six individual jaguars were documented in theUnited States.

Afteryears of delay, in March 2014, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)designated critical habitat for jaguars in Hidalgo County, New Mexico, and thecounties of Pima, Santa Cruz, and Cochise in Arizona. Despite the designation,Wildlife Services currently employs lethal wildlife management techniques indesignated jaguar critical habitat. Wildlife Services is violating the ESA’srequirement to consult with USFWS concerning potentially harmful activities in thejaguar’s designated critical habitat.

“Thepresence of rare jaguars in the Southwest is part of what makes it such aunique and special part of our country,” said John Mellgren, staff attorney atWELC. “The critical habitat designation will help ensure that the jaguar doesnot go extinct. As such, it is important that we hold Wildlife Servicesaccountable for actions that could harm jaguars.”

Thefundamental purpose of the ESA is to conserve endangered and threatened speciesand the ecosystems upon which they depend for survival and recovery. The ESArequires federal agencies to ensure that their activities do not jeopardize thecontinued existence of a listed species or adversely modify a listed species’critical habitat.

Anot-widely-known (and ironically named) federal program, Wildlife Services isresponsible for the deaths of millions of wild animals each year. WildlifeServices uses multiple lethal management techniques designed to target largepredators in and near designated critical habitat for jaguars—including blindsets, baited and scented traps, draw stations, leg and foot snares, and M-44cyanide capsule ejectors. Many of these cruel techniques routinely injure and killnon-target species. Because Wildlife Services’ activities will affect thejaguar’s designated critical habitat, the ESA requires the federal program toconsult with USFWS.

“WildlifeServices can no longer blindly pretend that jaguars do not have a place in theAmerican Southwest,” said Tara Zuardo, wildlife attorney with AWI. “Employingindiscriminate, dangerous lethal control methods in occupied jaguar habitat isa severe threat to the species’ recovery and must end now.”

WildlifeServices is also contracted to carry out other activities, such as the PinkBollworm Eradication Program, which includes harmful pesticide application inArizona and New Mexico in the vicinity of known occupied jaguar habitat. In thenotice of intent to sue, AWI and Guardians request that Wildlife Servicesimmediately cease activities that impair designated jaguar critical habitat.

“For fartoo long, Wildlife Services has hidden the impacts of its lethal activities onendangered species like the jaguar,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife programdirector at WildEarth Guardians. “Wildlife Services must immediately cease itsactivities in jaguar habitat and comply with the Endangered Species Act.”


Other Contact
Tara Zuardo, Animal Welfare Institute, 202-446-2148, tara@awionline.org
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