Washington, D.C. -- The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and the Wildlife Alliance of Maine (WAM) urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today to enforce the Endangered Species Act (ESA) against the unlawful trapping of Canada lynx in traps set for other species. Lynx continue to be trapped and sometimes killed in traps set by recreational fur trappers, licensed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W), and the Service has failed thus far to stop this illegal activity.
"At least 47 lynx have been incidentally trapped in Maine over the last decade and each time this happens, the ESA is violated," said Camilla Fox, wildlife consultant for AWI. "Since lynx were listed as a federally threatened species in 2000, they have been incidentally trapped in Maine. It is imperative that the Service take all necessary steps to prevent this unlawful harm from continuing."
In response to litigation, IF&W agreed in 2007 to tighten its regulations with respect to Conibear kill traps which have captured and killed lynx in Maine, and to apply for an incidental take permit from the Service to mitigate illegal take and to shield the agency from further violating the ESA. In August 2008, IF&W submitted its current draft permit to the Service – a permit application on which the Service has not yet made a final determination. Because lynx continued to be trapped after IF&W tightened its trapping regulations, AWI and WAM filed a lawsuit against IF&W in August 2008 for ongoing violations of the ESA’s take prohibition. After a six-day hearing, federal district court Judge John A. Woodcock concluded that IF&W’s current trapping regulations have resulted and will continue to result in unlawful takes of threatened lynx.
"In light of Judge Woodcock’s determination that lynx will continue to be unlawfully taken under the current regulatory scheme, it is imperative that the Service invoke its enforcement authority against IF&W for ongoing takes of threatened lynx in violation of the Act,” said attorney William Eubanks of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal in his letter to the Service on behalf of AWI and WAM. “Otherwise, many lynx will continue to be illegally trapped, harmed, harassed, injured and even killed as a result of IF&W’s actions. It is incumbent upon the Service to exercise its statutory enforcement authority to ensure that such conceded violations are halted, and to send a clear message that neither private nor governmental actors may violate the ESA with impunity."
While Woodcock ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor regarding liability, concurring that Maine’s current regulatory scheme for trapping furbearing animals is resulting and will continue to result in ongoing violations of the ESA, he ruled against plaintiffs with regard to a permanent injunction to further restrict traps in lynx habitat pending the issuance of an ITP. In addition to the letter sent to the Service, the organizations have appealed Judge Woodcock’s recent decision on relief to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.
"The most recent and best studies available in Maine show a 50 percent decrease in snowshoe hare populations and this and other factors, including trapping, are greatly affecting our dwindling lynx population ,” said Daryl DeJoy, founding executive director of WAM. “Lynx must be protected from indiscriminate traps."
William Eubanks, Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal law firm, 202-588-5206, ext. 14 (office)
Camilla Fox, AWI, (415) 945-3232 (office )/ (415) 690-0338 (cell)
Daryl DeJoy, Wildlife Alliance of Maine, (207) 326-0779 (office)/ (207) 299-2291 (cell)
The Animal Welfare Institute is a non-profit charitable organization founded in 1951 to alleviate suffering caused to animals by humans. More information is available at www.awionline.org.
The Wildlife Alliance of Maine is a non-profit organization advocating on behalf of Maine’s wildlife, and promoting a conservation ethic that represents non-consumptive wildlife users. More information is available at www.wildlifealliancemaine.org.