Arizona Game and Fish Director Comments on Arizona Republic editorial
By Larry Voyles, Director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department
The poignant story and fate of the oldest known wild jaguar, Macho B, has captured not just the attention but the imagination of people in Arizona, across the nation and perhaps even around the world – and rightly so.
Arizona Republic editorial writer Linda Valdez penned an eloquent and perceptive editorial on March 9 about this “male of mystery” that thrilled us all with its occasional forays into Arizona over the past 13 years when it was occasionally photographed or video taped, mostly via efforts to study wildlife moving along these valuable corridors near the border.
The editorial was absolutely on target – for wildlife biologists, veterinarians and other wildlife professionals involved, it was a painful responsibility to euthanize this magnificent animal that was struggling with kidney failure. It was some of our worst fears coming true, but we had a duty to act.
Yes Linda, we don’t know if Macho B is the last wild jaguar in Arizona, but as you pointed out, it is a symbol of hope for our open spaces and the connectivity of our habitats. We have come far in our views and understanding of wildlife during the past century or so.
But Macho B is a symbol for an even broader forward-looking discussion – what kind of wildlife future we are going to have in Arizona this century, and into the next century?
Most people are shocked to learn that a top-of-the-line predator like Macho B, a species long thought extirpated in the United States, could still roam in a state with approximately 6.5 million people. A question to ask ourselves is whether we will still be home to such wildlife wonders when the human population of this state reaches 10, 12 or 15 million? The answer to this question may well reside in the decisions Arizonans make today about how we choose to conserve and manage our landscapes.
Difficult decisions call for solid information. The kind of information our biologists were attempting to gather when Macho B was first snared. We not only need to collect biological information for the future, but also to join together to create a shared vision for the future and then work cooperatively to ensure that vision comes true.
Yes, Macho B is a symbol for a far ranging effort on behalf of Arizona’s wildlife on behalf of current and future generations.
There is a sense of irony and maybe a little serendipity here – Macho B was originally captured by biologists trying to gather biological data so that resources managers can make better informed decisions on land and habitat use. How well we use that information may well determine if Macho B is to remain a symbol of what was or become a symbol of what still can be in terms of Arizona’s wildlife future.
Larry Voyles has been the director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department since January 2008. Voyles earned a Bachelor of Science degree in wildlife biology from Arizona State University. He joined the Game and Fish Department in 1974 and has held various positions, including being the Yuma regional supervisor for 20 years.