MINNEAPOLIS— The Center for Biological Diversity today notified the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources of plans to sue the agency for permitting trapping that harms Canada lynx, in violation of the Endangered Species Act.
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. As few as 50 of the rare cats may remain in the state.
“It’s outrageous that Minnesota’s lynx keep needlessly suffering and dying in indiscriminate traps,” said Collette Adkins, the Center’s carnivore conservation director. “The state needs to step up and implement sensible changes to prevent the tragic deaths of these highly imperiled cats. Minnesota’s rare animals shouldn’t be strangled in neck snares.”
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.
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 core lynx habitat. But even after these additional measures went into effect, the rare cats have continued to get caught in traps.
“Year after year we see sickening reports of lynx getting caught and even killed by traps, but the state refuses to act,” said Adkins. “Minnesota’s wildlife managers would rather appease a small number of trappers than protect these beautiful wild cats. We hope this lawsuit will finally convince the state to make lynx conservation a true priority.”
The lawsuit 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.
Today’s notice letter starts a 60-day clock, after which the Center can file its lawsuit to compel the state to comply with the Endangered Species Act.
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. Currently, biologists estimate, 50 to 200 lynx may range in northern Minnesota.
Last year the Trump administration announced plans to remove federal protection from lynx but has not yet moved forward with an actual proposal.