June 30, 2014 / 7:10 PM / 4 years ago

Conservation groups sue in Idaho over protection of imperiled lynx

SALMON Idaho (Reuters) - Conservation groups sued Idaho wildlife officials and the governor on Monday, contending the state violated the U.S. Endangered Species Act by not restricting the kinds of traps and snares set by hunters in habitat favored by the imperiled Canada lynx.

The Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and others claimed in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Boise that three of the rare cats have been accidentally captured in two years in legal devices set by trappers for bobcats in the Salmon-Challis National Forest of east-central Idaho and in the far northern reaches of the state.

Lynx, long-legged, medium-sized animals that roam mountainous terrain from Maine to Washington and south through the Rocky Mountains, were classified as threatened in the Lower 48 states under the Endangered Species Act. The law broadly bans killing or injuring imperiled animals without a special permit.

Fewer than 100 lynx are believed to inhabit Idaho, where the elusive carnivores are designated a species of greatest conservation need.

The cats are recognizable for well-furred paws that allow them to hunt in deep snow for their main prey, snowshoe hares.

The Center for Biological Diversity and others argued that Idaho has violated federal law by failing to craft regulations such as imposing restrictions on devices used to trap animals such as bobcats in the high country where lynx are likely to be found.

The push to boost safeguards for lynx comes as U.S. trapping organizations report rising prices and sales along with demand in countries such as China for fur. 

Idaho Fish and Game spokesman Mike Keckler said the agency was reviewing the lawsuit, having just received a copy of it.

Amy Atwood, attorney for the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity, said a similar lawsuit brought against Minnesota prompted the state in 2008 to impose rules including mandatory reporting of lynx inadvertently captured in traps set for animals such as foxes and requiring use of certain traps and snares in lynx habitat.

“Idaho’s trapping program is out of control and we need to see the state issue regulations to protect lynx,” she said.

Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Jim Loney

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