Conservation groups seek to end trapping in Montana

Three conservation groups filed a lawsuit Thursday that would halt all trapping in 15 Montana counties.

While Madison County is not considered a critical habitat for lynx, areas in bordering counties are.

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Wild Swan and WildEarth Guardians have presented a lawsuit against the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission and FWP director Jeff Hagener in Missoula District Court for allowing trapping in areas that are considered prime lynx territory.

The predatory cats were added to the Endangered Species List as a threatened species in 2000. Since then, at least nine lynx were discovered in traps. Four of those found later died. The conservationists see this as a violation of the Endangered Species Act.

Lynx used to inhabit 16 different states. Now only small populations are found in Montana, Washington and Maine. Over-trapping in the 1980s significantly decreased the numbers of Lynx in the United States.

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks maintains that Montana has the healthiest lynx population of the lower 58 states. The statement is based on winter track surveys and the agency has no definite population numbers. FWP provides trappers with resources on its website on how to avoid the accidental trapping of a lynx.

While the actual trapping of lynx is illegal, the large cats are attracted to the bait in traps set for other animals like wolves, bobcats and coyotes.

Until late last year, Montana still allowed the trapping of wolverines. A lawsuit ended the state’s allowance to trap wolverines, and now the animal is being considered for endangered species protections.

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks acknowledges trapping is part of Montana’s heritage. Trapping in Montana dates back to the time of Lewis and Clark. The FWP’s website goes on to state trapping is biologically sustainable and is “an important part of Montana’s cultural history and outdoor lifestyle.”

In addition to this most recent lawsuit, Friends of the Wild Swan joined two other groups to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in order to speed up the process of creating a recovery plan for the lynx.

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