An Update on Maine’s Lynx Laws
Lynx remain a hot-button issue for Maine trappers. That much is clear from Norm Trask’s Maine Trappers Association Legislative Liaison report in the November 2011 issue of Trapper & Predator Caller.
Trask’s report details the latest on the possibility of the creation of an incidental take permit for lynx in the state and the conditions required to get that permit, which will ultimately lead the association to support or oppose the legislation. Trask also updated readers on the “emergency rules” adopted last December to help protect against lynx being injured or killed in some areas of the state.
The full text of Trask’s lynx-related Association News briefs is below:
The conditions that the state will be asked to accept in order to receive the ITP will be the key to whether the MTA will support or oppose the issuance of the permit. On the one hand, as we have stated time and again, we desperately need an ITP to protect both the Department and individual trappers from liability whenever a lynx is taken incidentally in a trap. On the other hand, we may be better off continuing to trap without the protection of an ITP if the restrictions that accompany the ITP are as bad, or worse, than the terms of the Consent Decree that we are saddled with now. We won’t know for sure what the ITP will require of us until the proposal appears in the Federal Register. Once that happens and we learn what’s in store, we’ll notify our members accordingly and then make a decision on whether to live with what’s being proposed or fight it. I’ve already received information from reliable sources that the Department is less than pleased with some of the language that is expected to be included in the federal proposal. I’ve been told that the Department has suggested several changes to the Feds within the past few months in hopes of making the proposal more palatable, but it appears that those suggestions have been largely ignored. I guess that’s not surprising, given that at least one of the authors of the proposal has said and done things over a long period of time that, in my opinion, indicate a strong bias against trapping. Before we jump to conclusions, however, we need to see the proposal for ourselves.
220’s Legal on the Ground in WMDs 7, 14, 18 and 19
Trappers throughout the state may eventually be able to set 220’s on the ground. They will, of course, have to set those traps in enclosures protected by lynx “exclusion devices”. I know, there are lots of places where lynx don’t exist, but lynx exclusion devices will also prevent other non-target species from getting into the 7-inch body-grippers, including domestic dogs. This year, however, the use of 220’s on the ground will be limited to Wildlife Management Districts 7, 14, 18 and 19. Lynx do exist in all four of those WMDs, so smaller body grippers, including 110s and 120s, will also require the protection devices when used at baited sets on the ground.
As I’m sure you remember, increasing numbers of lynx in WMDs 14, 18 and 19 prompted the Department to adopted emergency rules last December to help protect against lynx being injured or killed in traps in those WMDs. Those emergency rules imposed the same “lynx related” trapping restrictions that have been in place for some time in WMDs 1 through 6 and 8 through 11. Under the terms of a court approved Consent Decree that settled the first of two lynx related lawsuits, those “lynx protection” measures must remain in place in WMDs 1 through 6 and 8 through 11 until the Department receives an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) for lynx from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (the Feds). The same does not hold true in WMDs 14, 18 and 19. Those WMDs were not part of the Consent Decree, and the Department was not required to make changes to protect lynx in those districts.
Emergency rules only remain effective for 90 days, so they “self-destructed” early last spring. That meant that the Department, in order to continue to protect lynx in those WMDs, had to adopt new rules through the regular rule-making process. Prior to that happening, I petitioned the Department, on behalf of the MTA, to modify the lynx protection rules in WMDs 14, 18 and 19, as follows:
· Remove restrictions on the jaw-spread of foothold traps at land sets.
· Remove restrictions on the size of cage-type live traps.
· Allow the use of wooden-base (killer-type) rat traps for taking weasels.
· Allow the use of killer-type traps with a jaw-spread of 5 inches or less on the ground in baited boxes, or other enclosures, equipped with “lynx exclusion devices”.
The Department not only agreed to do what we requested, they went a couple of steps further. They increased the jaw-spread of body-grippers that could be set on the ground in conjunction with lynx “exclusion devices” to 7 inches (220s) and added WMD 7 to the list of districts where “protected” body-grippers could be set on the ground (WMD 7 has a small lynx population but was never one of the WMDs covered by the Consent Decree).
The use of “protected” body-grippers on the ground will be used this trapping season as a kind of experiment. If all goes well, and we believe it will, trappers can expect to eventually be allowed to use 220s on the ground at “protected” sets everywhere in the state. How soon this happens will depend, in part, on when the state receives an ITP for lynx from the Feds and what trapping restrictions are included as part of that permit.
The definition of a lynx exclusion device, as it applies to WMDs 7, 14, 18 and 19 this trapping season, was adopted by the Department through the rule-making process (has the force of law) and reads as follows:
In Wildlife Management Districts 7, 14, 18, and 19, killer-type traps with a jaw spread not to exceed 7.5 inches may be used on the ground level if the trap is placed within a lynx exclusion device. The trap jaws must be completely within the device, the trap springs can be outside of the device. The lynx exclusion device must not have an opening greater than 6 inches by 8 inches, the set trap within the device must be a minimum of 18 inches from the closest edge of the opening to the trap (intended for 160 and 220 conibear traps) or; if the device has a 4 inches by 4 inches or less opening, the trap must be a minimum of 12 inches from the closest edge of the opening to the trap (intended for 120 conibear traps). The opening must not be directly in front of the trap rather on the top or on the side of the device. The back of the device must be secured to withstand heavy pulling; if using wire mesh with a wood box, the wire mesh must wrap around two opposite sides of the box and be secured. There must be at least 2 attachment points for each side of the device were there is a joint or panels come together. The exclusion device can be constructed of wood, or wire mesh that does not exceed 1.5 inch openings (side to side). The wire mesh has to be 16 gauge or less (wire diameter of 0.05 or greater). The opening slot in the exclusion device that allows the trap springs to extend outside the device can be no more than 7.5 inches wide and a height of no more than 1.5 inches. The trap must be anchored outside of the exclusion device. Bait must not be visible from above.