Maine Audubon has taken an aggressive position against the federal Incidental Take Permit for lynx requested by Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. In an email alert on September 2, Audubon asked supporters to “Please help lynx from being trapped in Maine!”
Audubon encouraged its supporters to submit written comments to the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service in opposition to the permit request. Today is the last day those comments can be submitted. I believe USF&W has already received lots of comments on this issue, from both sides.
If you want to submit comments today, you can do so here.
I’ve also posted a question for you to answer in the Sportsmen’s Say Survey on my website. You can access that question here:
DIF&W has been working on this federal permit for many years, since the Canadian Lynx was placed on the federal endangered species list. Maine agreed, in a later court consent decree, to make numerous changes in trapping and management to protect the Lynx.
There’s a reason the Lynx is labeled “Canadian.” Maine never had many, according to historic records, but DIF&W has, using a ton of federal money, been studying Lynx in Maine and – even to their surprise – discovered that more than 1,000 live here now. That’s probably the most Lynx we’ve ever had in our state.
I’m now plowing through the 317 page “Incidental Take Plan for Maine’s Trapping Program,” submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on July 29, 2013, and will report on this issue in more detail sometime soon – because this is a very big deal for Maine trappers, who could be shut out of much of the state if the permit is not secured.
The U.S. Endangered Species Program prohibits the “take” of threatened or endangered species that results in direct harm to the species or habitat destruction. But the ESA authorizes the USFWS to issue permits for the “incidental take” of listed wildlife species that may occur from otherwise lawful activities.
If the permit is issued, it will apply only to Maine licensed trappers who are trapping legally.
Audubon reported, “Although the current trapping program does not target lynx for capture, it puts both individual lynx at risk and potentially the Maine population at risk. Traps can unintentionally harm or kill lynx. Such incidents have been documented and, we believe, underreported.”
Audubon informed its supporters, “DIFW’s proposed ITP requests permission over the next 15 years for up to 195 lynx to be captured or trapped, with up to 3 of those killed and an unknown number injured or harassed. Between 1999 and 2013, 84 lynx have been incidentally trapped in Maine.”
Audubon claims, “DIFW is not proposing to utilize the traps recommended by the existing Best Management Practices or to impose other available conservation measures. The ITP does not minimize and mitigate harmful effects on lynx by trapping to the maximum extent practicable as required by the Federal Endangered Species Act. It should be denied.”
Obviously, DIF&W disagrees. Jim Connolly, DIF&W’s Director of the Fisheries and the Wildlife Divisions, told me this morning that he is pleased with the cooperation and assistance his agency has received from federal officials on this issue and the ITP application. He expects the permit to be granted.
Jim told me the ITP application includes all of the changes the agency made in the court consent decree, and goes even further to protect lynx.
“In the permit we have to assume the worst, try to prevent the take of any lynx, and mitigate any losses that do occur.”
The Executive Summary of the ITP application clearly states, “The proposed take of lynx in this Plan will have no adverse impacts to habitat and will not affect lynx growth rates during the permit period. Throughout the Plan, IFW provides data from more than 12 years of tracking lynx and incidental take in Maine that demonstrates that trapping in Maine does not pose a risk to Maine’s lynx population and may only directly impact a few individuals (give or take 12 lynx in a 15 year period).”
“Since the late 1990s, Maine’s lynx population increased to historic high numbers in areas where fur trapping, animal damage control, and predator management effort occurred.”
The ten measures DIF&W proposes to implement, if it gets the ITP permit, are very detailed. You may not be interested in this level of detail, but I’ll provide it for those who are interested.
“To minimize the incidental trapping of lynx in Maine, this Plan includes measures that:
- Requires killer-type (<8 inch jaw spread) set on land in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18, and 19 to be set on a leaning pole in compliance with current Maine laws, on the ground as a blind set (i.e. only traps with jaw spreads greater or lesser than 5 inches) or with an improved lynx exclusion device;
- Restricts the placement of visible bait near foothold and killer-type traps statewide;
- Requires the use of 1 swivel on foothold traps in lynx WMDs;
- Requires the mandatory reporting of any lynx caught in traps prior to releasing the lynx, unless the IFW official cannot be reached in time to prevent injury to the lynx;
- Requires IFW personnel, when it is safe to do so, to release lynx from traps to evaluate and treat any trap related injury and insure compliance with trapping regulations;
- Requires periodic staff training and evaluation of 15 lynx by a licensed veterinarian over the permit period;
- Provides care to lynx if injured;
- Provides eight outreach and education efforts to inform new and experienced trappers of measures to avoid or minimize lynx captures;
- Commitments to investigate compliance with trapping regulations that minimize lynx capture; and
- Provides 4,785 acres of lynx habitat as mitigation for permitted lethal take.