Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Group wants trapping ban for sake of lynx

Group wants trapping ban for sake of lynx

Group says trapping aimed at other animals in the Superior and Chippewa forests kills lynx.

BY JOHN MYERSNEWS TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

Minnesota-based animal welfare group has asked the federal government to ban trapping in Minnesota's two national forests to stop the accidental killing of lynx. Help Our Wolves Live -- which has taken up the cause of the lynx -- says the ban is needed in the Chippewa and Superior national forests to protect lynx, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. According to HOWL, humans are the leading cause of lynx deaths in Minnesota and may be holding lynx numbers down. Several lynx have been shot, trapped and hit by vehicles in recent months.

Linda Hatfield, executive director of HOWL, said a review of research data shows at least 15 lynx have been trapped, snared or shot in Minnesota over the last 36 months -- nearly half of those within the Superior National Forest.

Of six snaring incidents, three were fatal to lynx. "HOWL's concern is that snares and traps that are intentionally set for bobcat and fox within the two national forests are a significant danger and threat to Canada lynx recovery," Hatfield wrote in a letter to Jim Sanders, supervisor of the Superior National Forest.

The letter also was sent to regional Forest Service officials and state and federal lawmakers.

HOWL noted that Minnesota law was changed last year to allow snaring of bobcats, which the group says may lead to even more lynx killed.

Phil Delphey, endangered species biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said HOWL's numbers appear accurate. "They're close. It's within one or two animals. And the mortality of those (trapped lynx) is somewhere between six to 10 animals," Delphey said Monday.

Delphey acknowledged that more lynx probably have been killed by traps and not reported or discovered. With an estimated 200 lynx now in the state, it's not clear what effect trapping has on the overall population and species recovery.

Sanders said it's not clear whether the Forest Service has any authority to ban trapping on federal land in the forest.

Wildlife management is the purview of the state Department of Natural Resources and, if the species has federal protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Sanders is preparing a response to HOWL's letter but said no action is pending." The key here is that all three agencies have the recovery of the lynx as a priority," Sanders said. "We're working cooperatively on the issue, and that's the best way to proceed."

Dan Croke, a Duluth trapper and former officer of the Minnesota Trappers Association, said he hears of few lynx being trapped

across the north woods. "It's not happening as much as they think. I'm

not hearing about (trapped lynx) at all," Croke said. "And if they are

accidentally taken, lynx often can be released. They don't fight the trap."Croke said that further restrictions on trapping in Northeastern Minnesota would be strongly opposed by the trappers association.

It's not the first time environmental groups have claimed trapping aimed at other animals is taking too many lynx. The News Tribune reported in November that Defenders of Wildlife, a national conservation group, along with the North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, sent a letter to DNR commissioner Gene Merriam.

The groups asked the DNR to take immediate steps to prevent accidental lynx trapping.

Defenders suggested the DNR require trappers to use smaller traps that are less likely to take lynx, and to ban snares in areas that lynx favor. The groups also called for the DNR to offer greater incentives for trappers to report lynx taken by accident and to improve trapper education.

So far, the DNR has not changed any trapping policy. But DNR officials note that, in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, wildlife managers mailed brochures to all licensed trappers in the state explaining how to avoid trapping lynx by accident.

At least five of 32 radio-collared lynx have been trapped in the last

three years, researchers report. Two of those were found dead and the

others were released or escaped. Some biologists note that such a high

percentage of study animals trapped could indicate a major problem.

Lynx were common in northern Minnesota through the early 1980s, although their population fluctuated in cycles that appeared to follow the population of snowshoe hares. Thousands of lynx were legally trapped in Minnesota through the 1970s until their population crashed and didn't rebound.

The state ended trapping in 1984 and the federal government, forced by court orders, added lynx to the threatened species list in 2000.As recently as 2000, DNR biologists said no lynx lived in the state and that any seen here were migrants from Canada. But DNA tests confirm that more than 60 lynx now inhabit the state, with at least three times that many believed to be here.

Duluth News Tribune Tuesday, Jan 17, 2006

Duluth, MN http://www.duluthsuperior.com/

If you are a resident of Minnesota, you can speak out for the Canada Lynx here: http://capwiz.com/bigcatrescue/issues/alert/?alertid=8357146

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Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue

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http://www.BigCatRescue.org MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org

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