The Lynx Quagmire
By Brett Patten

If you read my column in January, you might remember my excitement over the incidental take permit (ITP) finally being issued by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). Well…. It’s not entirely bad, after all it’s the first time EVER that an ITP was issued to do with trapping. Given the choice, wouldn’t we rather be able to trap?

This is what took place: on November 4th, 2014 the USFWS issued the ITP to the state of Maine and all us trappers for the incidental trapping of Canada lynx. Over the 15-year plan trappers are allowed the incidental capture of 195 lynx. Of these 195, the permit allows for up to 3 mortalities, and 9 lynx with injuries severe enough to require rehabilitation. On December 9th, 2014 the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife (IF&W), following guidelines set by the ITP, shut down all above ground trapping in zones 1-11, 14, 18, and 19. In addition in zones 7, 14, 18, and 19 body grip (lethal) traps smaller than 71/2 inches may only be used if, when set, are in a lynx exclusion device. In all above zones foothold traps have to be set on or below ground level. All this was due to the fact that 2 lynx died as a result of legally set traps. On top of that, they died within a week of each other.

Now what do we do? First of all, we need to figure out a way to not kill another lynx in the next 14 years. If this happens it will result in the USFWS stepping in and taking necessary actions to make certain no other lynx are killed. What that would consist of I can only imagine. According to the ITP, for each lynx killed during the 15-year plan another 22,000 acres needs to be set-aside as protected lynx habitat. Can you say holy crap!

Next would be a recovery plan along with a species assessment A.K.A biological assessment. It should be noted that by law, I repeat, BY LAW, a recovery plan was suppose to be done by the USFWS before the lynx was originally listed. It seems that the USFWS does not follow they’re own federal government laws unless sued and made to do so. You have to love our government and how they work! Can all of this happen? I don’t know. One things for sure, without the recovery plan, lynx will never be de-listed and this is after all, the ultimate goal. The process has started and it will be no easy task. It is going to take a lot of work and cooperation from all agencies involved. At this time there are meetings set up to formulate a plan to move forward. Unfortunately, because of printing deadlines, I need to have this column done and turned in before any of those take place. One such meeting is going to be between the Maine Trappers Association president, Brian Cogill, and the presidents from the Vermont and New Hampshire Trappers, associations. They are going to discuss joining forces to try and get the population of lynx in our region separated from the rest of the country. Other threatened species, for instance the wolf, are managed and or protected in many different ways depending on the region. So why can’t we do this when it comes to the lynx? I believe we can, its just going to again, take time, and possibly lawsuits to make it happen.

Maine IF&W biologist Jennifer Vashon, who has led much of the state’s lynx research said although the state plans to continue lynx research this winter, and hopes to come up with a more accurate population estimate, the available data and the estimate developed in 2006 doesn’t reflect the fact that lynx populations are likely at a historic high. She wouldn’t guess at the lynx population, but said reaching a more accurate estimate will help the state work with the USFWS to adjust the incidental take plan. We as trappers need to do our part too, call your legislators and tell them we want the lynx de-listed. If you are not a member of the Maine Trappers Association please become one. There is power in numbers and at this point we need all the power we can muster. There are people who say the lynx will never be de-listed. I would like to think they are wrong. Let’s all be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

Brett Patten lives in St.Albans with his wife April.
He encourages you to get involved
And looks forward to your feedback.
He can be reached at

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