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TRAPPING — A lawsuit that could restrict trapping across much of Idaho is being heard in a Boise court today.
Arguments are being presented involving inadvertent trapping of federally protected Canada lynx.
The Center for Biological Diversity and three other groups say Idaho is violating the Endangered Species Act by allowing recreational trapping that sometimes catches the seldom-seen predator, the Associated Press reports.
“There are just too few of these beautiful cats for Idaho to allow trapping that gets them caught, injured and killed,” Andrea Santarsiere, an attorney with the Center, said in a statement. “In recent years there’s been a dramatic rise in trapping for bobcats and other furbearers, and it’s putting the survival of the lynx at risk.”
Named in the lawsuit are Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, Idaho Department of Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore, and members of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.
The Idaho Attorney General’s Office declined to comment Monday, citing pending litigation.
The Idaho Trappers Association has intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of Idaho. Officials with that group either declined to comment or didn’t return calls from The Associated Press on Monday.
The conservation groups in the lawsuit said trapping in Idaho has increased from about 650 licenses issued in the 2001-2002 season to more than 2,300 last winter. The groups say that at least four lynx have been trapped in Idaho since 2012. One was killed after a trapper mistook it for a bobcat.
Specifically, the groups are asking U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill to order Idaho to disallow lethal body-crushing traps and snares. The groups also want to limit the size of foothold traps in lynx habitat to an inside diameter of no more than five and three-eighths inches. The groups also want Idaho to require daily checks of traps by trappers.
The groups said the restrictions should apply to northern and central Idaho, and also in much of southwest Idaho. The groups also list a handful of areas in southeast Idaho.
Canada lynx weigh about 20 pounds and have large paws that give them an advantage in both pursuing prey and eluding predators when traveling across snow. They feed primarily on snowshoe hares and are believed to number in the hundreds in the continental U.S. It’s unclear how many are in Idaho.
Also taking part in the lawsuit are Western Watersheds Project, Friends of the Clearwater and WildEarth Guardians.
Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Arguments in a lawsuit involving inadvertent trapping of federally protected Canada lynx and that could restrict trapping across much of Idaho are set for Tuesday in Boise. The lawsuit says Idaho is violating the Endangered Species Act by allowing recreational trapping that sometimes catches the seldom-seen predator. The Center for Biological Diversity and three other groups are asking the federal court to order Idaho to disallow lethal body-crushing traps and snares. The groups also want to limit the size of foothold traps in lynx habitat and require daily checks by trappers. The groups say that at least four lynx have been trapped in Idaho since 2012. The groups also say trapping in Idaho has increased, with about 650 licenses issued in the 2001-2002 season to more than 2,300 last winter.
The lawsuit was filed in 2014 by the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, Friends of the Clearwater and Wild Earth Guardians against Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, Fish & Game Director Virgil Moore, and the Idaho Fish & Game Commission. The Idaho Trappers Association and National Trappers Association have intervened in the case on the state’s side. You can read the original complaint here, and the state’s answer here. AP reporter Keith Ridler has a full report here. The conservation groups in the lawsuit said trapping in Idaho has increased from about 650 licenses issued in the 2001-2002 season to more than 2,300 last winter, and at least four lynx have been trapped in Idaho since 2012. One was killed after a trapper mistook it for a bobcat.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is starting a review of federally protected Canada lynx at a time when the largest population of the cats in the Lower 48 appears to be poised for a decline, according to the Associated Press.
The end of clear-cutting in Maine with the Forest Practices Act of 1989 has allowed forests to fill in, taking away some of the habitat preferred by snowshoe hares upon which lynx feed, potentially reducing populations of both species, said Jim Zelenak, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Montana.
The latest estimates from federal scientists put the number of Canada lynx in Maine at about 500; that’s fewer than a state estimate of 750 to 1,000 lynx five years ago.
“There’s quite a bit of discussion about what is an appropriate number of lynx to shoot for in Maine,” Zelenak said. “That is something we’ll talk about in the status review.”
The lynx population grew in Maine after clear-cutting — in large part to eradicate spruce budworm — in the 1970s and 1980s created the ideal habitat for snowshoe hares. The pest, largely eradicated today, eats the needles of fir and spruce trees.
Historically, there have been smaller numbers of lynx in New Hampshire, where they’re thought to have spread from Maine. There also have been lynx sightings in Vermont.
There’s still hope that habitat can be maintained for the hares that provide subsistence to the lynx population.
Federal wildlife and conservation officials have worked with four land owners to manage about 600,000 acres for lynx by cutting 40 percent of the trees, then returning six to eight years later to cut the remainder, said Mark McCollough, an endangered species biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Maine.
The five-year review, to be completed by this summer, is the first since Canada lynx were declared threatened in 2000. Designations of critical habitat have been made in parts of Maine, Wyoming, Washington State, Montana, Idaho and Minnesota.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will gather the best scientific information to clarify threats that could jeopardize lynx populations; the information will be used in determining whether or not a formal recovery plan is needed, Zelenak said.
Under a separate process, the agency has been working with the state of Maine on an incidental take program.
Animal welfare advocates are renewing their call for tighter trapping restrictions in Maine after two Canada lynx got caught in traps and died. Maine put temporary restrictions in place for a 90-day period, giving state officials time to craft a longer-term solution before the next trapping season begins in late October.
Five environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Idaho today, charging that the state is violating the Endangered Species Act by allowing recreational trapping that inadvertently ensnares federally protected Canada lynx, the AP reports. In the last two years in Idaho, three lynx have been caught in traps intended for bobcats. One was killed after the trapper mistook it for a bobcat, and the two others were released. The groups want limits on Idaho trapping to protect the threatened big cat; click below for a full report from AP reporter Rachel LaCorte.
WILDLIFE — Idaho Fish and Game biologists confirmed a recent sighting of a Canada lynx on the Salmon-Challis National Forest.
The sighting is the first direct evidence of lynx presence on the forest since 1991.
Idaho Fish and Game collected hair and scat samples from the animal to determine its origin, according to an agency media release.
“This would be an extremely rare event, and we’re waiting to get genetic test results before we confirm it’s a native, wild lynx,” Fish and Game wildlife manager Tom Keegan said.
A local recreationist reported the animal to Fish and Game after seeing it in a legally set foot-hold trap targeting bobcat. Fish and Game officials arrived at the scene within the hour and assessed the lynx for injuries and potential treatment. With no injuries indicated, officials released the lynx from the trap.
“We watched it wander off in good shape,” conservation office Dane Cook said. “It had all the classic lynx features: long legs, huge furry paws, ear tufts, and the short black-tipped tail.”
Read on for more details about lynx.