Lawsuit alleges MT FWP allowing trapping in occupied lynx habitat in violation of ESA

lynx_trapped_PhotoThis is a follow-up post to a few previous posts we had on the blog regarding Canada Lynx, including the fact that the US Fish and Wildlife Service hasn’t produced a recovery plan for Canada lynx, even though the species was listed as “threatened” 13 years ago.  What follows is the press release from the conservation organizations, which filed the lawsuit. – mk

Helena, MT.  Three conservation organizations today sued the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission and the agency’s director for permitting trapping that kills and injures Canada lynx, a species protected as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. The state permits trapping and snaring in lynx habitat, even though the Act prohibits harm to protected species. At least nine Montana lynx have been captured in traps set for other species in Montana since the species was listed in March 2000, and four are known to have died from trapping.

“In one instance, a young female lynx was found in a pool of her own blood, with extensive muscle damage, and an empty stomach – all from lingering far too long in a cruel, steel-jawed trap,” stated Wendy Keefover, Carnivore Protection Program Director for WildEarth Guardians, “Montana allowed this unnecessary death, which impedes lynx recovery, especially when it involves potential breeding animals.”

Population estimates for lynx in Montana are unknown. The best available science estimates that no more than 300 lynx inhabit Montana and that the population is declining from both indirect and direct threats such cutting the forests in their habitats, human encroachment, global warming, and mortalities from poaching and trapping.

Lynx are particularly vulnerable to traps and snares set for other species, such as bobcats, coyotes, foxes, and wolverines, and are potentially vulnerable to wolf traps. Lynx are easily captured as they are naïve about human scents, respond well to baits, and are easily attracted to visual lures.

Though lynx trapping is banned since the animal is protected under the ESA, Montana allows regulated trapping of a number of other species throughout the year. The conservation groups allege that trapping and snaring in occupied lynx habitat is illegal because the Endangered Species Act mandates that states prevent the “take” of “threatened” lynx.

Even Canada lynx that survive being captured in body-gripping traps endure physiological and psychological trauma, dehydration, and exposure as well as injuries to bone and tissue that reduces their fitness and chances for persistence. Trapping is also a source of indirect mortality to lynx kits since adults harmed or killed by traps and snares cannot adequately feed and nurture their young.

“Crippled or dead lynx can’t take care of their young,” said Mike Garrity, Executive Director of Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “If we want to get lynx off the Endangered Species list, we need species’ recovery, not more mortalities and mutilations.”

“Baited traps lure lynx to injury and death,” said Arlene Montgomery, Program Director for Friends of the Wild Swan. “Montana has a responsibility to ensure that imperiled species are not harmed by trapping. Our goal is to make sure that the State does just that.”

The groups are represented by attorneys Matt Bishop and Greg Costello of Western Environmental Law Center, and Melissa Hailey of W. Randolph Barnhart, P.C.

38 thoughts on “Lawsuit alleges MT FWP allowing trapping in occupied lynx habitat in violation of ESA”

  1. Matt: If the lynx is a threatened or endangered species, I don’t think we should be trapping them. Similarly, if coho or steelhead are really threatened or endangered species, I don’t think we should be killing and eating them.

    What concerns me is the paragraph: “Population estimates for lynx in Montana are unknown. The best available science estimates that no more than 300 lynx inhabit Montana and that the population is declining from both indirect and direct threats such cutting the forests in their habitats, human encroachment, global warming, and mortalities from poaching and trapping.”

    So, to summarize, there are no known population estimates for lynx, BUT the “best available science” pegs the number as 300 — maybe less — somehow. What kind of sorcery is this? Where might I also tap into this apparently omnipotent (and rarely consulted) resource? It just sounds too wonderful to be true. Plus, sheer conjecture regarding whether populations are going up or down does NOT mean “down” and it certainly does not open the door to additional conjecture regarding Global Warming, logging, etc. Matt, this is crap conjecture with an agenda, NOT the “best available science.”

    If you’re going to continue making outlandish statements like this — and continue claiming that it is not only “science” BUT — in someone’s estimation (yours?), the “best available” there is to be found — at least have the decency to cite your sources. I’m guessing not too reliable, whoever is coming up with this stuff.

    • “On March 24, 2000, the contiguous United States population of the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.” (Source:

      Also, Bob, what makes you jump to the conclusions about “sorcery” “sheer conjecture” “crap conjecture” “outlandish statements” etc regarding lynx population estimates? And furthermore, why do you always seem to attribute other people’s statements or opinions to me? Anyway, do you not think that USFWS, Forest Service and/or MTFWP have had their own lynx biologist make population estimates or attempt to come up with them?

      Oh, wouldn’t you know it? Once again, a simple 20-second ‘google’ search can help you find the information you are looking for, Bob.

      Check out what John Squires, the leader of the U.S. Forest Service’s lynx study at the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula had to say about the Montana lynx population in a recent issue of Smithsonian Magazine:

      In 2000, lynx were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Squires began his project in anticipation of the listing, which freed up federal funding for lynx research. At the time, scientists knew almost nothing about the U.S. populations. Montana was thought to be home to about 3,000 animals, but it has become clear that the number is closer to 300. “The stronghold is not a stronghold,” Squires says. “They are much rarer than we thought.”


      P.S. Here’s John Squires contact info, as well as a career’s worth of lynx-related research for you to look over. Please contact Squires directly, if you have anymore questions, and make sure to let him know your opinions about his “sorcery” “sheer conjecture” “crap conjecture” “outlandish statements.”

    • I may be wading into a bit of back-and-forth blog commenting history between folks here I’m not fully aware of at this point, but press releases like the one included in this post typically don’t list all cited sources. Instead, they are aimed at media outlets who, if they decide to pick up the story, often ask such follow-up questions to the party that issued the press release as well as seek out opposing viewpoints to develop into a story for publication. Since this is so recent, that likely has not yet occurred. That said, the complaint doesn’t list a source for the 300 population figure either that I found in a quick skim, but at this stage in litigation parties are not yet required to provide such a citation to back up their statements. What will be interesting is seeing the answer from the state either conceding or refuting that figure and the population trend, and what information the state relied on in contrast with the plaintiffs.

      Side note unrelated to lynx but pertinent to the mention of coho and steelhead: I don’t think we kill and eat threatened or endangered coho and steelhead. Certain distinct population segments (DPSs) or evolutionarily significant units (ESUs) are protected under the Endangered Species Act, but those only include the wild native runs, not hatchery-bred coho and steelhead. So any steelhead or coho caught that is not hatchery-clipped on its adipose fin are to be released. Hatchery-clipped individuals, meanwhile, can be kept and eaten pursuant to state laws. The only exception to this I can think of is possibly for tribal treaty rights. Some digging through NMFS’ rules should turn up a definitive answer.

      • John: You are right. I’m just pushing for better journalism. And I think these things need to be clearly cited before they are taken to court. Preferably, way before. “Closer to 300 than to “3000” includes a range from 1 to 1649 animals — NOT 300. And where is the evidence for decline? Changed estimates from a single source doesn’t sound too reliable — especially for such a wide range of possible numbers.

        Regarding your side note: coho and steelhead are the same species, whether born in a hatchery or in a creek somewhere. Same as human babies born at home rather than in a hospital — same species. Didn’t Judge Hogan even make a legal ruling in that regard in September, 2001?

        DPS and ESU are government acronyms adopted for regulatory purposes. I’ve always been very suspicious of the “science” behind them. That’s the type of thing that makes me think these laws need to be revisited.

  2. So Bob, how exact must the estimates be to satisfy you? How exact could a wild lynx count ever be anyway? What would you suggest as a process for a more ‘reliable’ (i.e. satisfactory to you) wild lynx count? And why on earth would you even consider that the lynx population could be increasing?
    Hunt much?

    • Julie: I have undoubtedly hunted a lot more than you during my life. Probably a whole lot more. I don’t care how estimates are made — i just don’t want to be told that something hasn’t been estimated, and that the number is 300 — according to “the best available science.” And no references. Why are you so certain the lynx population isn’t increasing? Can you cite your source(s)? Who is this “best available science,” anyway, and where did the number 300 come from? And is that up from 290, or down from 310? Who says? And why?

      • Bob, Did you not read my direct response to you? Apparently not, because you are continuing down the same road of making assumptions and accusations. Why don’t you give John Squires, the leader of the U.S. Forest Service’s lynx study at the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula, a call so we can settle this, as I’m pretty sure he can handle all your questions, if he’s available.

        John Squires
        Research Wildlife Biologist
        Phone: 406-542-4164
        e-mail: [email protected]

        • Matt: Better idea — why don’t YOU call him. I don’t even know the guy. And I’m pretty sure he can’t answer all my questions, even if they are just about lynx in his neck of the woods. Positive, in fact. You’re just making some more baseless assumptions in that regard, too, Matt. You keep seeming to want to post things without being responsible for their content. Why should I even read them, if you are unable or unwilling to back them up?

          • Seriously Bob? Now I’m Bob Z’s little secretary who’s supposed to drop everything and call scientists and researchers when YOU have questions? Come on, man.

            And for the record, as I see it, I’m only responsible for the content of what I say and what I write….my words and my opinions.

            I simply cannot, and will not, be held accountable for the words, opinions, etc expressed in press releases, lawsuits of others. This blog has been following the lynx issue, including the back in August when a NOI to file this suit was given. JZ asked for an update on that suit in a different post last week, so this press release and copy of the complaint is provided here for those who are following this issue and want to be kept updated.

            • Matt, Matt, Matt. Take a deep breath, bud. Whether you call John Squires or not is your decision. I really don’t care. Honestly. I just don’t have any particular time or reason to make a long-distance call to a complete stranger that I probably disagree with anyway, just because you want me to. Life is too short for that kind of stuff. How many wildlife biologists work for USDA, anyhow? Are they the ones responsible for the “best available science,” or is it some other group? Or just certain members of the group? Those are rhetorical questions, Matt, so no need to go posting anybody else’s contact information in response. We can all use Google.

    • Ellen,

      Are you referring to the Matt and Bob show? I’d agree. Almost as good/bad as the Bob and David Beebe show, before Dave swore us all off. Matt isn’t nearly as verbose though.

      Oh, I know, I know….comment considerations and all that. Just injecting a little levity.

      • At one time Derek took his bat and went home too. So I personally hope David Beebe joins us again. Anyway, earlier this week we had the all-time most daily traffic on this blog….and looks like we’ll break that record again today. So people are reading, and some are commenting. My role in this current “Show” is just an attempt to respond to allegations and accusations with some context…and the contact information (as well as PDF’s of a career’s worth of research) for the USFS’s leader on lynx recovery in the northern Rockies.

        • I really miss David, especially when I run across anti cap’n’trade pieces. And who else on the blog has the Alaska perspective? Maybe we need to pray to Gaia for his return.

          • I can understand David’s last post here about something to the effect of us wanting a “live target” to (beatdown?). I don’t necessarily think that’s the case as evident in some of the Bob/Matt agree-disagree comments as of late. And WOW….Derek is looking back at Matt in the mirror??? I think the routine folks who would post/comment here have and will continue to mature. Maybe a personal invite back to Dave might be in order?

            • Jz- you are right. I tend to have an excessively yin approach to some things, as my old boss, Richard Stem, used to point out. Perhaps I was unconsciously trying to balance the strong yang of him and our then RF. Good to reflect on about. It helps us grow to be questioned…Oops, I won’t just reflect, I will email him.

      • JZ: You made me laugh! I feel your pain. In my own defense, however, please note that I stopped responding to David’s posts long before he swore us all off. In fact, after a recent 3-4 month absence from blogging, I was surprised to not see him here and wondered what happened. He could sure use a lot of words!

        In my further defense, you can’t say you weren’t forewarned:

        On a more serious note, I’m concerned that when Matt and I get involved in a prolonged or dynamic discussion — or you, Derek, Larry, or Sharon — The “15 Last Comments” fills up in a hurry. Sometimes in just a couple of hours. If people are tired of reading me or Matt, it’s easy to skip or skim our posts and move on (“the David Defense”) — but they, and other people, too, including ourselves, may have/probably have missed comments or opinions of interest. Earlier discussions should be in searchable archives, not just short lists only a few hours or days long. In my opinion.

        • I have seen on other very popular blogs that people will spam the comments, in order to push one they don’t like off the bottom of the comments list. It is pretty easy to see but, I don’t think any of our regulars are doing this. It is just something to look out for, when new folks join in.

        • I totally agree and I believe in continuous improvement (a future post pn BMPs) but I am at the end of my technological tether… this may be the trigger that sets us on the path to acquiring resources to hire someone to figure this out.

  3. Ah, c’mon Matt. I couldn’t stay away. I’m the anti to your matter, the ying to your yang, when you look in the mirror I’m looking back. Look, at the end of the day when we go home from work, I would imagine you’re a pretty decent guy. So…hey man,I want you to know dude, if you ever need a kidney…go ask JZ! LOL.

    • That’s pretty funny Derek. If I’m ever driving Missoula to Elkhart Lake, WI I’ll certainly look you up for an afternoon in the woods, or a beer.

  4. Matt,

    I’d say it’s a success (the blog). Good to know that folks are reading. Hope everyone understands that some of us know each others buttons and (occasionally) like to push them!

    I almost got to the point of swearing this place off, but knew I’d be back as Derek is. Like Sharon said,bloggers are born, not made, or something like that. Something tells me David is a man of conviction and meant what he said, although I wouldn’t hold him to his word if he chose to join again.

    • Actually it was Roger Pielke, Jr. who has this blog, who said it. I actually started blogging by commenting on his blog and then envisioned this one (more or less).

      After I retired, I was thinking of pursuing being the blog being adopted by some entity, specifically a university. I have a spiel about it being 21st Century Extension. So I had coffee with Roger one bright afternoon in Boulder and talked about how it is for him to run a blog and be in academia. That’s when he told me “bloggers are born, not made”, in the context of people who want to start a blog just can’t necessarily do it by making someone write posts.

      After this discussion with Roger, I lost energy about this for a long time, but it is coming back. I am thinking we need to do the 501c3 paperwork so we could take donations and hire people to do things like improve the blog format. Maybe start on the People’s Database and the People’s Research Priorities.

      • You have my support as needed. I would think there are some easy to grasp grants available, considering the “Executive Direction” for a more transparent Gov’t, etc.

  5. Bob, so back to the issue at hand, enough touchy-feely

    You said: “If the lynx is a threatened or endangered species, I don’t think we should be trapping them.”

    The conservation status for the lynx is Globally “secure”, nationally “secure” in Canada and “apparently secure” in the US.

    In fact lynx are trapped as a furbearer across much of the northern tier of their range in North America. Last month there were over 5,200 lynx pelts auctioned off at one of two yearly international fur sales in Toronto. Average price per pelt was over $200 with higher graded pelts over $500. But I digress…

    I too am curious abou the “best available science” cited in the complaint. Especially this part:

    “The best available science reveals the amount of reported take of lynx from trapping and snaring is less than the amount of actual take.”

    That claim seems a little suspect…like someone condensed all the comments from the “wildlife news” blog and called it “best available science”. I suspect they’re talking about accidental take gone unreported since a lynx pelt (or bobcat) cannot be sold, or even tanned without a CITES tag. I’ll stand by for the citation. Anyway, I’m digressing from forest policy stuff…

    The lynx is cute, fuzzy, apparently vulnerable to trapping (not if the proper BMPs are applied) and a convenient chess piece for the “usual suspects” to stop activities they don’t like. I’d throw something in here about moral superiority, but Matt’s head might explode. Instead we should re-read Sharon’s excellent post here:

    Regardless the “usual suspects” and the same lawyers have done what they’ve done. And requested the Government to reimburse them their fees. These lawyers that graduated in the tops of their classes must have had a heck of an economics curriculum as well.

    If you are interested in learning more about lynx, here’s a great site (worth the time):

    Oh, and Bob, by the way…a call to John Squires might actually be in you interest. He’s a proponent (or at least not opponent) to creating 2 storied stands through harvest – on a large scale.

  6. Guys, guys: now I’m getting teary-eyed and the text is getting blurry. I have been blogging here a couple of years, I think, and have taken extended periods of a few weeks to a few months off at a time — usually business priorities, travel, or something. Still, at intervals during an absence, or after returning to commenting and (now) posting, I have found reading the posts and comments have been a great way to catch up on the latest forest-related issues and ideas we all enjoy participating in — but, more importantly, the insightful discussion and debate everyone brings to the table. And current!

    Three or four years ago I used to comment and post on about six or eight main blogs at a time: local, regional, and national. Now, in addition to a Google Climate Skeptics Group I co-host, this blog is where I spend about 80% of my blogging time anymore. Partly because Matt has a way of almost pissing me off at times and daring me to get involved, but mostly because of the honesty, quality and social concerns of the people who participate here. I like the definition of knowledge where it is a combination of information (“academics”) and experience (“field work”). There is a ton of knowledge in this group and the widest of differing opinions, but the combination really illustrates the value of public debate and modern Internet communications.

    One more note (slow day) — the size of our readership is probably a good indicator of the popularity of some of the topics we are discussing, but the size of the audience we really need to reach is much smaller — the people who can actually affect the types of changes that we debate. In that regard, I have found that by using links to and from this blog in my email and website management networks — and in my posts and comments here — can be a really effective way to efficiently network with appropriate political connections, science contacts, wildfire experts, etc. The combination of the two methods, I think, is a good way of looking at these numbers.

    • Bob, if it reassures you, the Region 1 Public Affairs Officer routinely links posts in this blog in the daily news clips to FS employees. I’m sure this post will be there tomorrow since it’s Montana-centric (at least the original content was, prior to all this teary-eyed stuff!)

      I think that the smaller audience you reference is getting the info. I share link to posts routinely as well with the same intentions as you…Unfortunately I have to remain (in deep-throat fashion) anonymous. For now. Not like some folks haven’t figured me out.

      Perhaps a “blogroll” or something similar on the side of the page might help spread this site?

  7. It’s been interesting watching the development of this thread. From the top, the topic is trapping. Specifically of the lynx, and a photo of a lynx with his foot in a trap is given, which clarifies, if needed, the subject.
    Pretty quickly, the thread evolved into a debate of the statistics-gathering reliability concerning lynx head count.
    The realities of trapping (many types of trapping are banned in many countries) have not been discussed here yet; the sadistic cruelty, what can happen when a trap malfunctions, etc etc.
    Now, Bob has self-identified in this thread as a hunter (though I had him pegged right away) – presumably a trapper – and therefore, his quibbles regarding the lynx population count appear to me to be an attempt to appear reasonable. This is obfuscation. At the end of the day – Bob kills animals for pleasure. The love of hair-splitting data gathering, the reasonable-seeming challenges information which derail the overarching purpose – this is predictable behavior. It’s best for people who do cruel and illogical things to the defenseless, to appear reasonable and above all, intelligent.
    It’s possible he likes the picture above, of the lynx in obvious pain, a whole lot.
    So – it still really doesn’t matter how many more or less than 300 lynx there are.
    Humans don’t need to manage the lynx population. I’m quite sure it’s not increasing. Increasing from what, anyway? Extinction? 300 lynx is not a lot, no matter how desirable their fur is, or how good they look stuffed and mounted.

    • Julie, don’t think your issue is singled out for Bob’s attention, he applies the same scientific scrutiny to pretty much every issue. I know that you feel strongly about killing animals, but to say he “kills animals for pleasure’ is an overreach. Of course, I try to follow a Spiritual Leader who said “he who is without sin should cast the first stone” so I’m probably not a good judge.. don’t get a lot of practice ;).

        • Julie: Just to be clear, I’ve never trapped a single animal in my life. If you want to know who I am, ask Google. FYI, my family has lived on fish and venison at several different times in my life, and for different reasons. If one is killing predators in order to increase the quantity of game animals or to protect pets or domesticated herds, then maybe that is “killing for pleasure” in your world. Selling the hide for $500 to help feed your family adds another dimension. What would a picture of dying children in Africa have caused you to think? Or a chicken in a box or a cow in a stall? Jumping to erroneous conclusions based on faulty assumptions and a single photo isn’t a good foundation to accuse others of being “illogical.”

    • Derek: I think that’s a large part of it! However, the figures Matt is referring to have shown a remarkable growth during the existence of this blog, and particularly during the past week, when he finally began agreeing with me on some things.

      The stats are typically shown as a bar chart, with separate colors showing Visitors and Views (“repeat visitors”). Prior to this past week, the greatest number of Views was a little over 600 (set earlier in the month), and Visitors barely topped 200 on a few occasions. On March 19 the blog had 260 Visitors and 743 Views! On March 21 we had 226 Visitors and 940 Views. During the past four days of this week, the blog has averaged 230 Visitors and 730 Views! As of 11:00 AM today, there have already been 142 Visitors and 280 Views.

      To put these numbers in perspective, this blog was started in October, 2009, with 2 Visitors per day. By the end of the year, average daily Visitors had increased to 7. In 2010 the blog averaged 120 Visitors a day; in 2011 the number increased to 163; in 2012 the daily average was 296; and so far this year it is 328 and climbing.

      The stats don’t show who, exactly, the Visitors are, how long they visit, or how the information is used — but they are an excellent indication of the blog’s growing popularity and (assumed) influence. At least, that’s how I’m looking at it.

      • For those interested in stats, charts, etc and how they relate to views and visitor to this blog site the following links may be of interest.

        As you can see, this blog has had a number of growth spurts. The first one happened towards the end of 2010 and again at the end of 2011. At the beginning of 2012 another large growth spurt happened and the blog’s numbers have basically climbed steadily since then, with daily views solidly around 325, which includes the weekends when maybe the site only gets 100 views a day.

        Also, WordPress just started measuring the number of visitors a few months ago and most weekdays between 200 and 260 different visitors come to the blog. Personally, I don’t find that to be an insignificant number of daily visitors. So while there are certainly some “regulars” on the blog who check in to read and/or comment, the blog is certainly growing at a nice rate, and we’ve even been getting some new commenters. The blog is very close to a quarter million total views and we recently passed the 7000 total comments mark, which is also pretty cool. Thanks for those that check in, read and/or participate.

        • One more note on these numbers, Matt: Monthly and annual Viewer averages have shown steady and positive growth for every month and for every year — except August, 2011. What happened that month?

          Also — didn’t know we could just post those graphs to the blog, so that’s a good thing. Maybe keep these links available to Visitors at all times in the right-hand column?

          • My husband and I took our camper to Alaska for six weeks. At that time there weren’t enough other folks writing posts to do much. Also summers are generally slow, perhaps folks are outdoors in their spare time.

          • Bob and Matthew, I tried to post them on a widget on the right hand side but I think we need a link to make them real-time.. talking to Eli it appears that we may be exhausting the capacity of this free blog and may have to host it on a server.. He and I will look into that, any other parties are invited to participate. We may have to get 501c3 status so whoever donates to do that can write it off.

            • Sharon: It can easily take one or two years to get a 501 c(3), with lots of forms, legal and accounting work on the way. ORWW already has a 501 c(3) and a server that we lease from a reliable third-party (for 15+ years), and we are more than willing to donate space needed by Eli and others as soon as the software is ready to go and while the necessary paperwork is being completed — maybe even write out a formal one or two year agreement. This type of project fits right into our Mission and would be no additional cost to us. Plus, this is a PhP database design exercise, and I know of at least two other Internet-based 501 c(3)’s that would be thrilled to use the resulting product.


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