Three conservation groups, including Hailey-based Western Watersheds Project, are pursuing a lawsuit against Idaho officials to require them to more tightly regulate trapping in lynx habitat.
Canada lynx were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2000, and intentionally trapping them is prohibited by Idaho law. However, the three groups contend that incidental take of the animals threatens the species’ survival in the United States.
Under federal law, anyone filing a suit seeking enforcement of the Endangered Species Act must send a letter of intent to the potential defendants at least 60 days before filing the suit. On Monday, Western Watersheds Project along with Friends of the Clearwater and the Tucson, Ariz.,-based Center for Biological Diversity sent such a letter to Gov. Butch Otter, Department of Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore and members of the Fish and Game Commission.
“The lynx is a true Idaho mountain icon, and a healthy Idaho population is critical not just to lynx survival here, but across the western United States,” said Ken Cole of Western Watersheds Project in a news release. “Idaho is the crossroads for lynx, allowing a healthy mixing between Rockies and Canadian populations. If we lose the lynx in Idaho, the whole western U.S. population is at risk.”
According to the Department of Fish and Game, lynx habitat covers much of the state north of the Salmon River, but the population may be as low as 100.
The conservation groups’ letter states that recreational trapping in Idaho has resulted in three known instances of trapped lynx in the last two years, including one that resulted in the death of the animal. The letter claims a high likelihood that additional instances of take are also occurring.
The letter points out that the state could obtain an “incidental take permit” from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by developing a conservation plan. Such a plan could include restrictions on body-crushing Conibear traps and snares, stricter reporting requirements, better monitoring and a daily trap-check requirement throughout lynx habitat. Under current Idaho regulations, trappers are required to check their traps only once every three days.
“After being caught in a trap for up to three days, a Canada lynx may not survive even if released alive,” the letter states. “Damage from snares and traps can reduce mobility and survivorship of animals due to injury, limping and tissue necrosis that may take days to appear, or an inability to catch prey due to broken teeth or claw loss.”
The letter urges the state to take action to prevent future unlawful take from occurring, while pursuing authorization for incidental take under the Endangered Species Act.
“If you fail to remedy these violations within the next 60 days, however, we may pursue injunctive, declaratory, or other relief that is available under the law,” the groups stated.
Greg Moore: firstname.lastname@example.org