Canada Lynx Become Pawns to Stop Trapping

Paul mug color.jpgSeptember 2006 Editor’s Call

By Paul Wait


Canada Lynx Become Pawns to Stop Trapping

I’ve always been conservation-minded, so naturally, I support the concept of trying to protect threatened and endangered species. And by all accounts, Canada lynx survive in such small numbers in the contiguous United States that they deserve to be listed as threatened.

But right now, lynx are embroiled in a legal battle that has nothing to do with their recovery or protection.

The Humane Society of the United States filed a lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on July 5, alleging that the state’s fur-trapping regulations violate the federal Endangered Species Act by not adequately protecting lynx.

In truth, HSUS is using a legal strategy to try to put an end to trapping in Minnesota. Lynx just happen to be a convenient pawn.

As I’ve contended many times in previous columns, HSUS doesn’t care in the least about lynx or any other animal. If it did, HSUS would concede that regulated trapping in Minnesota does not harm the Canada lynx population.

Lynx populations rise and fall based on the cycles of snowshoe hares — the primary prey of the big-footed felines. In recent years, the hare cycle was at or near its peak in Minnesota.
Biologists agree that northern Minnesota is marginal lynx habitat. When hare numbers decline, lynx populations drop accordingly.

Biologists will also tell you that other predators such as coyotes, foxes, bobcats and fishers eat snowshoe hares. As trappers, we keep predator numbers in check. Essentially, lynx in a heavily trapped area should have less competition for food.

Then there’s the matter of predators actually eating lynx. Fishers have been known to kill lynx, and so have coyotes.

I am not a biologist, but it would seem to me that fewer predators on the landscape eating hares — and eating lynx — might be good for lynx populations.

The Natural Resources Research Institute and U.S. Forest Service is conducting an ongoing study of 32 radio-collared lynx in northern Minnesota. From 2003 to 2005, 14 of the study animals died. Three of the deaths were reportedly the result of trapping, although one of the lynx was legally taken after it crossed into Ontario, where lynx are subject to a tightly regulated trapping season.

Two lynx were killed by predators, one was hit by a train, another by a car, and one was illegally shot. The remaining six died of unknown causes, but two of those were found decomposed near roads — likely vehicle crash casualties.

Four lynx in the study are unaccounted for because of transmitter failure, but could still be roaming northern Minnesota or Ontario. In three years, 44 percent of the study lynx are known to have died.

For comparison purposes, let’s look at Colorado’s lynx reintroduction program, which began in 1999. Of 204 adult lynx released, 78 are known to be dead, with another 33 classified as missing. Only 93 are known to be alive, a survival rate of 46 percent. No lynx are reported to have died as a result of trapping in Colorado.

Although both cases involve relatively small numbers of lynx, the mortality statistics are similar.

Incidental trapping mortality of two animals is not a reason to shut down furbearer management through regulated trapping in Minnesota.

If it is justification, then we’d better shut down the railroads and close all roads to vehicle traffic, too.

And if we quit trapping in northern Minnesota, what will happen?

The lynx populations will rise and fall with the snowshoe hare cycles.

In addition, populations of other furbearer species Minnesota trappers hold in check would increase, assuredly causing property damage. We know what happened in Massachusetts after beaver trappers were put out of business. Contaminated water supplies and millions of dollars in road damage, if you need a reminder.

HSUS didn’t file its lawsuit to “halt the slaughter” of lynx in Minnesota as it asserts on its Web site. Its leaders don’t care whether Minnesota is home to lynx five years from now, or even next month.

The marginal presence of Canada lynx is merely a tool — one HSUS plans to exploit to promote its anti-trapping agenda. The real goal, however, is to raise millions of dollars. When played well in the media, high-profile lawsuits involving animals make donations flood in from a sympathetic, well-meaning public.

Thankfully, the Minnesota Trappers Association and other pro-trapping groups are preparing for battle to preserve trapping in Minnesota.

A final thought: How do you suppose those reintroduced lynx got to Colorado? Or Minnesota’s lynx were able to be fitted with radio collars?

That’s right. They were trapped.

Enter to Win a Trapping Trip
One lucky trapper is going to win an all-expenses-paid trapline ride-along in Montana this season.

The Trapper & Predator Caller presents the Montana Predator Trapline Sweepstakes, a chance to join master bobcat, coyote and fox trapper John Graham of Fur Country Lures on his East-Central Montana longline.

I accompanied Graham in 2000, so I can tell you first-hand that his trapline includes some of the most picturesque landscape anywhere in the West. Antelope, mule deer and golden eagles were common sights as Graham piloted his pickup from rimrock to rimrock where his traps lay waiting.

And if there are more-stunning spotted bobcats on Earth, I haven’t seen them. Montana coyotes are downright handsome, too, at least as far as fur quality is concerned.

In addition to fond trapline memories and trapping tips, our winner will receive a dozen Montana Special foothold traps, a dozen Amberg snares, six 4-ounce bottles of Fur Country Lures, two John Graham trapping videos and a $100 gift certificate to Schmitt Enterprises.

See Page 44 for rules and entry information, or stop at our booth at the National Trappers Association convention Aug. 3 to 5 in Hutchinson, Kan., to sign up. Entry is free.

We’ll draw a winner in October. It could be you!

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