Center for Biological Diversity

Stop Lynx Killing in Maine

Canada lynx
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Canada lynx in Maine are at risk from state trapping policies that prioritize the interests of trappers over those of the federally protected wildcat.

Right now a plan to allow lynx to be injured and killed as the “incidental” result of Maine’s trapping program is being considered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; but a range of factors, from inadequate oversight to climate change and the lynx’s natural population cycles, makes the proposal inadequate to protect the snow-roving cat.

Your voice is needed now to make sure the state is not granted its “license to kill”
under the current terms of the plan, which would essentially maintain the status quo for trappers allowing 159 lynx to be trapped over the 15-year permit -- and sidestep the urgent need for improvements in lynx management.

If Maine is granted a federal permit for a trapping program that allows for some harm to lynx, it needs to be based on the best available science, better accountability and oversight of trapping activity, and adequate law enforcement.
    
Please, fill out the form below and send a letter today to the Fish and Wildlife Service requesting that it reject Maine’s “incidental take permit plan” for lynx until it ensures the cat’s recovery.

Read more on lynx below the form and make sure to share this urgent action with your networks.

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Canada lynx photo courtesy USFWS.

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Background
Lynx are very rare in the United States, having been driven out of much of their former range by trapping and habitat destruction. They were federally protected by the Endangered Species Act in 2000. This secretive creature of the northern forest relies heavily on a diet of snowshoe hare, which go through cycles of boom and bust. Lynx population trends closely track those of the hare. Maine’s lynx population is perhaps the largest in the lower 48 states, but recent drops in snowshoe hare numbers are likely to be matched by a downward turn in lynx. Thus, the combination of the trapping plan and other threats, such as logging, development and climate change, along with a cyclical downturn in lynx numbers, could spell disaster for the species in Maine.

Even reporting a lynx live-caught in a trap could be problematic for those who want to see trapping continue with minimal regulation. So trappers often report a capture but release the animal before a wildlife official or veterinarian can examine it. A study of lynx caught by trappers in Maine found that fully 50 percent died within one month of release. It is unclear whether trap-related trauma was to blame, but the statistic definitely raises concerns that trapping has far more impact on the lynx population than the state is willing to admit.

The state’s proposal for its trapping program includes incidental takes averaging 13 lynx caught per year, or 159 over the 15-year permit. Because the animals are elusive, accurate lynx population counts are notoriously difficult -- the numbers proposed by Maine are more reflective of how many lynx have been caught and killed in the past, not a sound, scientific understanding of how many lynx there are at any given time.

All this is bad enough, but the fact of the matter is no one really knows how many lynx are trapped and killed each year, because the state depends on trappers to report themselves. Game wardens each have to cover 500 square miles of territory, and trappers have plenty of reasons not to report catching lynx. Each time they do report, it brings the tally closer to the limit set by the permit -- and every lynx killed is concrete evidence that Maine’s trapping program is at odds with the recovery of this magnificent cat. 

The state plans virtually no changes to its current trapping program with regard to trapper training requirements, trap modifications, or shortened trapping seasons. It makes only vague references to acquisition of lynx habitat to compensate for lynx lost to trapping. But because the plan makes no mention of protecting newly acquired lynx habitat from trapping, it must be assumed that trapping would be allowed there. Essentially, the state dismisses any possible alterations to the trapping program, if they might cause trappers to become more “hostile” to trapping regulation or reduce cooperation from trappers in reporting captured lynx. Yet, the state has little idea how many captures are going unreported at the present time, so it does not really know whether its present policies are buying it much “cooperation” in any event.