Maine trappers get caught by Canada Lynx

Canadian lynxTwo down, one to go. Barely three months after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an incidental take permit (ITP) for Canada Lynx to Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, two of the three Lynx Maine trappers were allowed to kill in the next 15 years are already dead.

And so is the ITP. Or at least, DIF&W has had to implement substantial new limits on trapping in the huge area governed by the federal permit. And one more dead lynx could result in the ITP being revoked.


It took DIF&W six long years of negotiation with the feds to obtain the ITP, which covers the next 15 years unless it is revoked for cause. The permit was needed so that trappers could continue to trap in the designated lynx areas – specifically Wildlife Management Districts 1-11, 14, 18, and 19.

And yes, that’s a whole lot of our state covering northern Somerset, Piscataquis, Penobscot, and Hancock plus Aroostook Counties. The area covered initially by the federal designation was actually increased in the ITP.

The ITP allows for the non-lethal capture of up to 183 lynx. But only 3 lynx can be killed during the entire 15 year period.

The permit also puts in place some regulatory changes in trapping rules implemented by DIF&W as part of a court consent decree enacted after the feds listed the lynx as “threatened” 14 years ago.

Maine Audubon and some national groups objected to the ITP, and have been considering a lawsuit against the feds for issuing the permit.

In a recent newspaper column, Maine Audubon’s new executive director, Charles Gauvin, wrote that the ITP “falls short of the agency’s mandate to protect the species.”


According to DIF&W, the first lynx death was self-reported by the trapper to the Maine Warden Service, as required by Maine rules and the ITP. But the second dead lynx was discovered by a game warden “conducting a routine check of traps for compliance with Maine’s trapping regulations.”

“Trapping education, outreach and compliance with Maine trapping laws are important aspects of Maine’s lynx management plan,” said Warden Major Chris Cloutier. “The Maine Warden Service is in the field, working with trappers, to make sure trappers are complying with Maine’s trapping regulations to protect lynx from accidental trapping.”

New restrictions

Yesterday, in response to the discovery that a second lynx had been killed, DIF&W announced that it has immediately implemented trapping rule changes, “to drastically decrease the probability of having another lynx killed in a trap,” according to James Connolly, DIF&W’s Director of the Bureau of Resource Management.

Effective immediately, lethal traps that are commonly used to catch fisher and marten are not allowed above ground or snow level in areas of the state where there are lynx. That’s the entire area mentioned above. In WMDs 7, 14, 18, and 19, lethal traps smaller than 71/2 inches may be used on the ground if the trap is placed within a lynx exclusion device. Additionally, the use of any foothold trap above the ground or snow level will not be allowed in these WMDs.

According to DIF&W’s press release, the rule changes were triggered by a contingency provision in the ITP which required modifications to trapping rules if two lynx were killed by legally set traps.

I am sure the department – as well as Maine trappers – are distressed about these changes, and wondering how they are going to get through the next 15 years without killing that third lynx, which could result in even more drastic changes, including the possibility that trapping could be banned or much more severely restricted in that entire area.

Canada lynx

Lynx are labeled as Canadian for a reason. There are a lot of them in Canada, where they are trapped and hunted. Maine’s extensive research on lynx discovered that some of our state’s lynx go back and forth from Maine to Canada. I guess you could call them dual-citizens.

“Although more lynx die on roads than in traps,” reports DIF&W, “the major source of mortality for the 85-radio-collared lynx tracked over a 12-year period in northern Maine was predation by fisher and starvation attributed to disease (i.e. lungworm).”

DIF&W currently estimates that we have between 750 and 1000 lynx. Another population survey will be done this winter.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.