MINNEAPOLIS— A federal judge today ordered the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to ban most uses of strangulation snares in northeastern Minnesota.
This legal win resolves the Center for Biological Diversity’s lawsuit challenging state-permitted trapping that inadvertently harms federally protected Canada lynx. The state’s current lynx population may be as low as 50.
“This is a big win for Minnesota’s Canada lynx and all of us who care about them,” said Collette Adkins, the Center’s Minneapolis-based carnivore conservation director. “These commonsense reforms of Minnesota’s trapping program will prevent needless, agonizing deaths of these rare cats, as well as other unintended victims like dogs.”
In the past decade, state and federal agencies have documented numerous captures and deaths of lynx in traps set for other wildlife in Minnesota. Trapping of Canada lynx, unless covered by a specific permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, constitutes an illegal “take” under the Endangered Species Act, even if it’s accidental.
Today’s court order bans most uses of strangulation snares in the “Lynx Management Zone,” which covers the arrowhead region of the state, northeast of U.S. Highway 53. In that same area, which is core lynx habitat, the order also bans most uses of leghold traps with a jaw spread larger than 6.5 inches. The court order also requires Minnesota officials to take steps to educate trappers about the new reforms.
In response to a previous lawsuit filed by wildlife conservation groups, a Minnesota federal court in 2008 ordered the state to better protect lynx by issuing regulations to restrict trapping in the cat’s core habitat. Yet lynx continued to get caught in traps, so the Center filed its 2020 lawsuit that led to the additional reforms announced today.
“Like so many Minnesotans, I’m sickened by the senseless cruelty of trapping,” said Adkins. “Very few Minnesotans still trap, but those that do will now need to stop using indiscriminate neck snares where they could strangle and kill Canada lynx. This makes good sense and it’s long overdue.”
Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) are distinguished from bobcats by their tufted ears, hind legs that appear longer than front legs, and a pronounced goatee under the chin. Their large paws work like snowshoes and enable them to walk on top of deep, soft snows. These cold‐loving cats feed predominantly on snowshoe hares but may also eat birds and small mammals and scavenge carcasses.
The lynx was listed as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2000. Its federally designated critical habitat includes northeastern Minnesota.
Trapping, habitat destruction, climate change and other threats continue to harm the Canada lynx. Although once more widespread, lynx currently reside in small breeding populations in Minnesota, Idaho, Montana, Washington and Maine. A reintroduced population also resides in Colorado.
Every year in Minnesota, a small number of trappers kill thousands of bobcats, pine martens and other wildlife, largely to sell their furs.
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