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Wildlife Advocates Threaten Lawsuit over Endangered Jaguar Habitat

PHOTO: A coalition of wildlife advocacy groups is threatening to sue the federal government over its animal-trapping practices on the protected habitat of the endangered jaguar in parts of Arizona and New Mexico. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
PHOTO: A coalition of wildlife advocacy groups is threatening to sue the federal government over its animal-trapping practices on the protected habitat of the endangered jaguar in parts of Arizona and New Mexico. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
April 9, 2014

TUCSON, Ariz. - A coalition of wildlife organizations is threatening to sue the federal government over its animal-trapping practices on critical habitat for the endangered jaguar in areas of Arizona and New Mexico.

Tara Zuardo, an attorney for the Animal Welfare Institute, said her group, the Western Environmental Law Center, and WildEarth Guardians are alleging that the federal Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services continues its trapping operations on the jaguar habitat in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

"They have not decided to do any consultation with the agency that they need to, and that would be the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service," she said, "but instead have just basically chosen to ignore the requirements under the Endangered Species Act and do nothing."

Earlier this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated about 1,200 square miles in Arizona and New Mexico as critical habitat for jaguars. Zuardo said the action requires the USDA to enter into "formal consultation" with Fish and Wildlife about trapping animals that could present dangers to humans or other animals. If that doesn't happen, she said, the lawsuit will move forward in about two months.

Carol Bannerman, a public affairs specialist at USDA Wildlife Services, said her agency has limited comment because it just learned of the possible lawsuit. However, she added, Wildlife Services has a history of limiting its trapping practices in sensitive areas to protect threatened or endangered animals.

"In general, in locations where there are threatened or endangered species, Wildlife Services does not use lethal tools that would endanger - threaten - an endangered species," Bannerman said.

There are reports that only one jaguar is known to live in the area that is now protected.
Troy Wilde

Reach Zuardo at (202) 446-2148. Reach Bannerman at (301) 851-4093.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - AZ