Feds Nearing Permit to Limit Accidental Trapping of Canada Lynx

Aug 5, 2014

After years of planning, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to finally sign off on a permit in October that allows trapping in Maine to continue as the state also works to limit the accidental taking of federally protected Canada lynx.

Here's the basic problem: as trappers go after species like bobcat or fisher, it's not uncommon to also catch Canada lynx. But when a Canada lynx ends up in a trap, the owner of the trap is breaking the law, even when it's all just an accident. That's because Canada lynx are protected under the Endangered Species Act, which is enforced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Jim Connolly is with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. In 2006, Connolly says the state submitted its initial application for an incidental take permit.

"The hoped outcome from all of this is that they would issue a permit that would cover Maine trappers, if they incidentally caught a lynx," Connolly says.

An incidental take permit requires state wildlife officials to do everything within their power to limit the accidental trapping of an endangered species like the Canada lynx. If Maine's steps satisfy the federal government, trappers here will then be protected should they catch a Canada lynx, despite their best efforts to avoid such an outcome. Connolly says the state, in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has now submitted a revised version of its incidental take permit application.

"What they need to do is this environmental assessment of the final application," Connolly says. "And that's what is being published tomorrow in the federal register. And then, after that, there are some other steps they have to do in preparation for issuing a permit."

U.S. Fish and Wildlife has already received extensive public feedback on its response to Maine's application. The agency used those comments, collected during 2011 and 2012, to come up with an updated environmental analysis of the plan. Starting tomorrow, the public will have a chance to raise questions, during what the agency hopes will be one final comment period.

"We're hoping that we can move through this comment period, address those as necessary, and then move on to making a final decision," says Meagan Racey, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Racey says U.S. Fish and Wildlife hopes to make that decision by October, when trapping season in Maine gets underway.