Animal welfare groups demand tougher protections for Canadian lynx

Canadian lynxIn response to the federal listing of Lynx as threatened, Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife restricted trapping in the Lynx’s region. But animal rights groups have been complaining ever since, especially about the decision by the feds to give Maine an incidental take permit, allowing a few Lynx to be accidentally captured. A lot of this battle has been fought in court.

In August 2015, wildlife and animal welfare groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Wildlife Alliance of Maine and the Animal Welfare Institute, sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for allegedly failing to enforce rules protecting Canada lynx from being killed or injured.

In response, Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation, the National Trappers Association and the Maine Trappers Association were granted intervener status on the side of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Last week a hearing before U.S. District Judge Jon Levy was held at the Margaret Chase Smith federal building in Bangor, drawing about 30 people.

The state’s legal brief, delivered by Chris Taube of the Attorney General’s office, noted that “Since 1967 (more than three decades before Canada lynx received federal protection), Maine has prohibited the intentional hunting and trapping of lynx. Occasionally, trappers inadvertently capture lynx. For the most part, captured lynx are promptly released, and the best available scientific evidence demonstrates that they function normally in the wild without any adverse effects from being trapped.”

Taub noted that Maine’s incidental take plan, approved by the feds in 2014, “is nearly 150 pages and is supported by five pages of citations to scientific literature and 175 pages of materials in the appendices.”

In addition to the steps taken to limit the possibility of lynx getting caught in traps, the state crated 6,200 acres of prime lynx habitat on state lands north of Moosehead Lake. Ironically, to create that habitat, the state had to significantly increase the harvest of trees there.

Taub noted that the animal welfare groups based most of their testimony on the “personal opinions of, in most cases, a single FWS (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) employee who seems to have been opposed from the start to issuing an incidental take permit to Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.”

As we await the decision of Judge Levy on this unfortunate attempt to unnecessarily toughen trapping restrictions to protect Canadian lynx, James Cote’s statement says it all for me:

“This lawsuit is yet another frivolous attempt by the anti- hunting, anti-trapping community to chip away at Maine’s outdoor heritage. The bottom line is that the radical interest groups that filed this lawsuit have propped up people with very little connection to Maine’s Lynx population to assign their names to it, and we think the judge will see through that. Maine Trappers Association has worked very hard to work under the Endangered Species Act and incidental take permit (ITP). We have agreed to more restrictions for the good of the Lynx population and the future of trapping. USFWS and MDIFW did good work when they finalized the ITP and we are proud to stand by and support that work.”

James is the lobbyist for the Maine Trappers Association and my co-host on the TV talk show Wildfire. We covered lots of trapping issues with Maine trapper Bobby Reynolds in the edition of Wildfire that is airing now.

Each edition of Wildlife is aired on Time Warner cable station 9 on Tuesdays at 7 pm, Thursdays at 6:30 pm, and Sundays at 9:30 am. Each edition airs for two weeks. You can also access the show, including previous shows, online at

I’ve worked my way through a half dozen legal briefs, filed in the latest court proceeding, and I will share some of that with you today.

Friends of Animals

Here’s what these folks claimed in their legal brief.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) acquiesced to a plan and Permit that failed to meet issuance criteria previously sought by FWS itself.

“The ‘thorough, probing, in-depth’ review of the record as a whole, as required by law, readily demonstrates the agency’s final decision to issue the Incidental Take Permit is contradicted by the agency’s own evidence, biological expertise, and prior longstanding positions.”

They also noted that FWS rejected Maine’s initial draft plan in 2008, requiring DIF&W to strengthen its trapping restrictions. But they complained that “the only change between the 2008 and 2014 drafts was a more robust ‘changed circumstances’ provision which… cannot substitute for practicable minimization measures and is contrary to law.”

A month ago, as it extended our trapping season a couple of weeks, DIF&W reported, “In 2015 the trapping regulations for several species was altered in order to reduce the chance of accidentally capturing lynx, which are listed as a threatened species by the federal government. Unfortunately, these changes resulted in reduced trapper participation, and have made it more difficult for the Department to collect quality biological data on some species.”

That statement from Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife supported similar comments from Maine trappers, offered ever since the restrictions were put in place.

Maine Trappers Association

The brief filed by the Maine Trappers Association, National Trappers Association, Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation, is especially good.

For example, they argue that “the ITP’s incidental take calculations were quite stringent and kept appropriate incentives in place. The takes (of lynx) allowed to the entire trapping community in Maine are fewer than the number allowed to single companies causing incidental take of other species elsewhere.”

The brief notes that some of the traps that the animal welfare groups are seeking to ban in Maine are already prohibited. The brief gets into great detail about the specifics of the traps used and not used in Maine, making compelling arguments against the demands of the lawsuit.

I found particularly interesting the section of this brief on the importance of trapping in wildlife management in Maine, and the significant restrictions enacted to protect lynx. The brief includes an account of the long history of litigation and demands by animal welfare groups on these issues.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Judge Levy rejects this unfortunate lawsuit.

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.