Court orders Idaho to stop illegal trapping of lynx

Judge Rejects State’s Attempts to Avoid Responsibility

VICTOR, Idaho— A federal judge today ordered Idaho officials to develop trapping restrictions that prevent protected Canada lynx — one of the rarest cats in the United States — from being illegally hurt or killed across more than 20,000 square miles of the state’s Panhandle and Clearwater regions.

“We’re thrilled the court agreed with us that Idaho needs to do more to protect the beautiful lynx from Idaho’s out-of-control trapping program,” said Andrea Santarsiere, staff attorney of Center for Biological Diversity. “Based on the illegal trapping of at least four lynx in the past four years, the court agreed with us that the state can’t stand idly by and watch while indiscriminate traps harm these rare and federally protected cats.”

Lynx, which may number as few as 100 in Idaho, are classified as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. As a result, trapping of a lynx is illegal, regardless of whether the cat is killed, injured or released. The court found that because it is likely lynx will continue to be caught in traps meant for other species in the Panhandle and Clearwater regions, Idaho must alter its trapping regulations to prevent future lynx trapping. The court ordered the state to submit a plan within 90 days with terms that will truly protect lynx in northern Idaho. Modifications under the plan may include restrictions on the size of foothold traps that can be used, prohibiting the use of traps designed to kill — such as Conibear body-gripping traps and neck snares — and requiring trappers to check their traps every 24 hours instead of the currently required 72 hours.

“This decision marks a huge step toward restoring Canada lynx to their rightful habitat in the West,” said Pete Frost, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. “These barbaric trapping methods must be changed to protect our treasured iconic cat not just in Idaho, but throughout lynx territory.”

In 2014, the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project, and Friends of the Clearwater filed a lawsuit against the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the department’s commissioners and Gov. Butch Otter for allowing trapping in lynx habitat. Plaintiffs were represented by the Center for Biological Diversity and Western Environmental Law Center, with Celeste Miller serving as local counsel.

“This is a victory not just for lynx but for bobcats, wolves, fishers, coyotes, foxes, and a suite of other forest animals as well,” said Ken Cole, Idaho director for Western Watersheds Project. “Hopefully the Idaho Fish and Game Department will take the hint that their regulations are completely inadequate for the protection of endangered species, and the agency will make changes that will benefit many other species that are indiscriminately trapped.”

“Today’s decision makes crystal clear that the state of Idaho must take responsibility for its failure to adequate regulate cruel trapping to protect imperiled lynx,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “We call on the state to immediately implement scientifically sound, humane restrictions on trapping, including 24-hour trap checks.”

Gary Macfarlane of Friends of the Clearwater said, “With this victory lynx in the Clearwater should finally receive the protection they need. It’s only common sense to put practices in place that protect rare carnivores.”

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