MINNEAPOLIS— The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources today for permitting trapping that harms Canada lynx.
In the past decade, state and federal agencies have documented captures of 16 lynx in traps set for other wildlife in Minnesota, six of which resulted in death. The state’s current lynx population may be as low as 50.
“We want to stop the senseless and sickening trapping of Minnesota’s imperiled lynx,” said Collette Adkins, the Center’s carnivore conservation director. “Every year trappers set thousands of traps across Minnesota’s Northwoods, and every year rare wildlife like lynx suffer and die in these traps. State officials can’t keep letting these beautiful animals die like this.”
Trapping of Canada lynx, unless covered by a specific permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, constitutes an illegal “take” under the Endangered Species Act, even if accidental.
Every year in Minnesota, a small number of trappers kill thousands of bobcats, pine martens and other wildlife, largely to sell their furs. Minnesota’s annual trapping season for bobcats, pine martens and fishers opens on December 19.
In a previous lawsuit filed by wildlife conservation groups, a Minnesota federal court in 2008 held the state liable for harm to lynx caused by trapping. It ordered the state to apply to the Fish and Wildlife Service for a permit to cover its trapping program. But the state never obtained the permit.
The court also ordered the state to better protect lynx by issuing regulations to restrict trapping in the cat’s core habitat. But even after these additional measures went into effect, lynx have continued to get caught in traps.
“Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources knows how to prevent lynx trapping deaths, but it refuses to act,” said Adkins. “State wildlife managers appear to be dead set on appeasing the tiny percentage who still trap. We hope this lawsuit finally convinces them to make common-sense changes to the trapping program to prevent needless agony and death for these beautiful wild cats.”
Today’s lawsuit, filed in federal court in Minnesota, will seek additional measures to prevent trappers from hurting Canada lynx, such as requiring placement of certain traps within “lynx exclusion devices” that prevent lynx deaths. Conibear traps snap shut in a viselike grip and have killed lynx on numerous occasions, but the department does not require trappers to place them within exclusion devices.
Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) are distinguished from bobcats by their tufted ears, hind legs that appear longer than front legs, and a pronounced goatee under the chin. Their large paws work like snowshoes and enable them to walk on top of deep, soft snows. These cold‐loving cats feed predominantly on snowshoe hares but may also eat birds and small mammals and scavenge carcasses.
The lynx was listed as a “threatened” species under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2000. Its federally designated “critical habitat” includes northeastern Minnesota.
Trapping, habitat destruction, climate change and other threats continue to harm the Canada lynx. Although once more widespread, lynx currently reside in small breeding populations in Minnesota, Idaho, Montana, Washington and Maine. A reintroduced population also resides in Colorado.
In 2018 the Trump administration announced plans to remove federal protection from lynx but has not yet moved forward with an actual proposal.