BY CHRIS NISKANEN
A California-based animal-rights group has sued the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources over the state's trapping regulations, accusing trappers of catching and killing endangered species.
The Animal Protection Institute of Sacramento, Calif., said it wants Minnesota to protect endangered species from body-gripping traps and snares the group claims is killing lynx, gray wolves and bald eagles.
The group said animals protected by the Endangered Species Act have been captured and sometimes seriously injured or killed in body-gripping traps and snares set for other species. The group claims at least 25 bald eagles were trapped between 1990 and 2006 in the state, "more than half of which had to be destroyed,'' according to a news release.
The group sent a letter to the DNR in April threatening to sue unless changes were made to trapping laws.
The lawsuit doesn't specify how Minnesota should change its trapping rules, but API says changes could include less lethal kinds of traps or banning trapping where endangered species might get caught.
"They need to look at their trapping regulations and look at what changes need to be made to ensure that lynx, bald eagles and gray wolves are not trapped and harmed or killed in these devices," Fox said.
Deputy DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten said the agency hadn't seen the lawsuit yet, but the agency would defend itself against it.
Two species of animals noted in the lawsuit — bald eagles and gray wolves — already have passed goals for being considered endangered species, he said, but the federal delisting process had been slowed by lawsuits from animal-rights groups.
Holsten said the "incidental" killing of species already was being addressed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
He also accused API of using the Endangered Species Act to attempt to ban all types of trapping.
"I think their intentions are not honorable. I think they have a hidden agenda of trying to stop trapping in the United States. And they are using the Endangered Species Act to do that," he said.
Gary Meis, president of the Minnesota Trappers Association, expressed skepticism about the API claims. He said he has never seen an endangered species in a trap. "I know of no cases myself," Meis said. "I hear rumors. But I have never seen it or witnessed it."
"I could bet my bank account against theirs that there's more endangered animals that are hit by cars, trains, etc. than are caught by traps," Meis said.
This report contains information from the Associated Press.