For Immediate Release, November 4, 2014
|| Mollie Matteson, Center for Biological Diversity, (802) 318-1487
Daryl DeJoy, Wildlife Alliance of Maine, (207) 326-0779
Feds Approve Maine Trapping Plan Allowing Rare Canada Lynx to Be Harmed, Killed
13 Federally Protected Lynx Trapped in First Month of Trapping Season
ORONO, Maine — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a permit today allowing trappers and state agents to injure or kill federally protected Canada lynx during Maine’s trapping season and as part of state-run predator control programs. The permit approval comes less than a month into Maine’s 2014 trapping season, during which 13 lynx have already been reported captured albeit released alive. Two lynx required veterinary treatment for injured toes.
“Maine's trapping plan simply doesn't do enough to ensure that threatened Canada lynx are not harmed or killed," said Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Fish and Wildlife Service should never have granted this permit — it's definitely a setback for recovery of these beautiful cats in Maine.”
Wildlife advocates say the state’s plan to minimize harm to lynx, which is required in order to obtain the federal “incidental take” permit, falls far short of what is actually needed to safeguard the forest-dwelling cats from trapping, to which they are particularly susceptible. The state plan requires trapper education — primarily through the distribution of a new DVD to all licensed trappers — and management of a mere 6,200 acres of state forest for lynx reproduction. Even within this small mitigation area, however, Maine intends to allow trapping. To monitor “take” of lynx, the state is relying almost exclusively on trappers to voluntarily report when they accidentally capture or kill a lynx.
“The state of Maine keeps asserting that traps don’t really hurt lynx, and trappers will reliably self-report when their traps injure lynx," said Daryl DeJoy, executive director of the Wildlife Alliance of Maine. "This is not scientifically based conservation; it is relentless self-delusion, at best. And lynx are going to be paying for it with injuries and with their lives.”
The final permit includes coverage for several new activities that were not considered by the Fish and Wildlife Service in earlier draft rounds of the permit. In addition to Maine’s recreational trapping program, the state added to the final permit its Predator Management and Animal Damage Control programs. As part of these state-funded programs, the state pays trappers to kill wildlife such as coyotes, beaver and foxes. The predator management program pays incentives and gas money to trappers who will travel to remote parts of the state to kill coyotes, as part of Maine’s effort to maintain high deer populations. Within these programs, the state will also allow the use of cable restraints, which capture animals around the neck but are designed to not asphyxiate them. However, cable restraints designed for smaller mammals may kill, larger, non-target species, such as lynx. The state plans to phase in use of cable restraints in the general trapping program. Maine will also open the state to use of larger traps than previously allowed.
The Canada lynx is a wild cat of northern latitudes and snowy climes. It weighs between 14 and 31 pounds, has large, furred paws, long, black ear tufts, and a short, black-tipped tail. In the lower 48 states, it is found only in a few areas, including Washington state, the northern Rockies and Minnesota. In the Northeast the only breeding population of lynx is in northern Maine, where several hundred live. The lynx was listed as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2000. Because of the threat of Maine’s coyote-snaring program to the lynx, the state and the federal Fish and Wildlife Service commenced negotiations on an incidental-take permit in 2002. A lawsuit brought by wildlife groups against the state’s trapping program a few years later led to an interim plan for lynx protection, until the Fish and Wildlife Service approved Maine’s permit application for the “incidental take” of lynx under the trapping program.
Wildlife groups reject the near-exclusive reliance on trapper self-reporting as the means by which the state and the federal government monitor lynx take. Lynx activists say more active law enforcement, including unannounced inspections of trapper operations, as well as lynx exclusion devices on all killing traps, padded or offset trap jaws, and a ban on the use of chain drags and wire snares, are needed to ensure that the fewest lynx possible are hurt or killed in traps. In addition, wildlife advocates say the trapping plan should hold the state to a higher standard of proof than trapper self-reporting that lynx are not injured by trapping. A previous study of radio-collared lynx in Maine showed that after being caught by trappers, only three of six lynx survived a month.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.