AWR Blog

Imperiled Canada Lynx Caught in Traps Push the Species Closer to Extinction

contact Wendy Keefover, WildEarth Guardians, (303) 819.5229 or Michael Garrity, Executive Director, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5936 or Arlene Montgomery, Friends of the Wild Swan, (406) 886-2011

Montana’s regulations allow traps in occupied lynx habitat in violation of the Endangered Species Act

Helena, MT — Three conservation organizations today sued the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission and the agency’s director for permitting trapping that kills and injures Canada lynx, a species protected as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. The state permits trapping and snaring in lynx habitat, even though the Act prohibits harm to protected species. At least nine Montana lynx have been captured in traps set for other species in Montana since the species was listed in March 2000, and four are known to have died from trapping.

“In one instance, a young female lynx was found in a pool of her own blood, with extensive muscle damage, and an empty stomach – all from lingering far too long in a cruel, steel-jawed trap,” stated Wendy Keefover, Carnivore Protection Program Director for WildEarth Guardians, “Montana allowed this unnecessary death, which impedes lynx recovery, especially when it involves potential breeding animals.”

Population estimates for lynx in Montana are unknown. The best available science estimates that no more than 300 lynx inhabit Montana and that the population is declining from both indirect and direct threats such cutting the forests in their habitats, human encroachment, global warming, and mortalities from poaching and trapping.

Lynx are particularly vulnerable to traps and snares set for other species, such as bobcats, coyotes, foxes, and wolverines, and are potentially vulnerable to wolf traps. Lynx are easily captured as they are naïve about human scents, respond well to baits, and are easily attracted to visual lures.

Though lynx trapping is banned since the animal is protected under the ESA, Montana allows regulated trapping of a number of other species throughout the year. The conservation groups allege that trapping and snaring in occupied lynx habitat is illegal because the Endangered Species Act mandates that states prevent the “take” of “threatened” lynx.

Even Canada lynx that survive being captured in body-gripping traps endure physiological and psychological trauma, dehydration, and exposure as well as injuries to bone and tissue that reduces their fitness and chances for persistence. Trapping is also a source of indirect mortality to lynx kits since adults harmed or killed by traps and snares cannot adequately feed and nurture their young.

“Crippled or dead lynx can’t take care of their young,” said Mike Garrity, Executive Director of Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “If we want to get lynx off the Endangered Species list, we need species’ recovery, not more mortalities and mutilations.”

“Baited traps lure lynx to injury and death,” said Arlene Montgomery, Program Director for Friends of the Wild Swan. “Montana has a responsibility to ensure that imperiled species are not harmed by trapping. Our goal is to make sure that the State does just that.”

The groups are represented by attorneys Matt Bishop and Greg Costello of Western Environmental Law Center, and Melissa Hailey of W. Randolph Barnhart, P.C.



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