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Environment and Outdoors

Battle Over Incidental Canada Lynx Trapping Goes to Court

Eric Kilby
Flickr/Creative Commons
Trappers and environmentalists will face off in federal court Thursday over whether state and federal governments should permit lynx to be killed in traps intended for nonendangered species.

Oral arguments begin Thursday in a federal lawsuit over protection of Maine’s threatened Canada lynx. Trappers and environmentalists say it could set a precedent for the country, as they battle in Bangor’s federal court over whether state and federal governments should permit lynx to be killed in traps intended for nonendangered species.

Two years ago, almost to the day, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued what’s called an incidental take permit to the state, approving its plan to continue trapping seasons for fisher and marten, while protecting lynx that can sometimes be caught in the same traps.

The plan included new state protections for lynx habitat within a 22,000-acre management zone in northern Maine and allowed for incidental “takes” of up to three lynx over 15 years.

Less than a month later, two lynx were found dead in traps legally set for other species in Maine.

“And I should underline, two were reported killed, because we don’t know what goes on out there that isn’t reported,” says Daryl DeJoy, director of the Wildlife Alliance of Maine, one of several state and national groups, including the Animal Welfare Institute and the Center for Biological Diversity, that are challenging the permit.

After those two lynx deaths, the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife did shut down the rest of the fur-trapping season, and instituted some new protections: exclusion devices that can block lynx from closely approaching body traps and swivels on foothold traps that can prevent animal injury.

But that wasn’t enough for activists such as DeJoy, who are asking the court to throw out the permit and start the process anew. He says the state shouldn’t just be allowed to make up new provisions over time, and he says the decision-making process was marred by political influence that contravened advice by the state’s own biologists.

“Time and again we see the state hedging, sort of refusing to do the things that are being asked of them, political pressure being applied from Gov. LePage, from even some of our state senators,” DeJoy says.

Federal officials declined comment, and state officials did not respond to request for comment.

Some Maine trappers were also unhappy about the adjustments in the permit. One trapper made a demo video and posted it to YouTube showing the special cage he’d attached to his trap in order to prevent lynx entry.


“Pretty much it’s gonna limit us a lot. But it is what it is to keep the antis happy. But I figured I’d make a quick video on this for most people that don’t understand what the feds can really do to you when they decide to really work on the Endangered Species Act side,” the trapper says in the video.

Nonetheless, the state and federal permits are being defended by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, the Maine Trappers Association, and by the National Trappers Association as well.

“The lynx we’re saying is endangered there, but yet you step over the across the country line over into Canada and they seem to have plenty of them there. So it’s not exactly an issue of an endangered animal. It’s more bureaucrats, pencil-pushers, that are trying to create some of the problems here that we’re seeing,” says National Trappers Association spokesman David Linkhart.

Both sides agree the case could set precedent for incidental take permit efforts associated with trapping seasons in other states.

“Because ITPs aren’t necessarily all in place in these states for where the Canada lynx are, Maine’s incidental take permit will serve almost like a template that gets reused,” says Tara Zuardo, an attorney for the American Wildlife Institute.

The last survey available, from 2006, pegged Maine’s lynx population, the only breeding population in the U.S. Northeast, at between 750 and 1,000. Maine’s general trapping seasons for species such as fox, coyote and otter began last Sunday. Fisher season begins Nov. 15.

Under the state’s lynx protection plan, traps are barred in some areas, and the season further limited in other areas.