Leghold Traps OK in Maine, Circuit Rules
(CN) - Maine is not required to ban leghold traps to protect threatened Canada lynx, the 1st Circuit ruled, because the state took sufficient measures to ban deadly "Conibear" traps.
The Animal Welfare Institute and Wildlife Institute of Maine sought a blanket ban in August 2008 on leghold traps, set in Maine for the permitted trapping of other fur species, but which also incidentally capture Canada lynx.
A federal judge rejected the groups' claims that lynx caught in leghold traps are more likely to be preyed upon or starve, and that a condition called "capture myopathy" can cause lynx to die later from the stress of being caught.
U.S. District Judge John Woodcock, Jr. reasoned that stress from trapping can't match the stress of daily survival, and pointed out that some lynx repeatedly visit traps in their search for food.
Woodcock acknowledged, however, that lynx caught in leghold traps experience physical symptoms of stress, including elevated breathing and body temperature.
The federal appeals court in Boston affirmed Woodcock's ruling, noting the results of a consent decree, which in 2007 and 2008 led Maine to limit the size of leghold traps in lynx territory. It also pointed to the lower court's decision forcing Maine to ban the use of Conibear traps, which killed two Canada lynx in 2008.
While steel leghold traps spring shut on an animal's limbs, holding it in place until the trapper returns to kill or release the animal, Conibear traps are designed to snap the animal's spine, killing it.
The court noted that eight lynx were trapped in 2007 and 2008, and of five assessed, two had no injuries at all, three had skin lacerations, and one had "a very slight limp."
Though the 1st Circuit agreed that lynx trapping violated the Endangered Species Act, it agreed with the lower court's "fact-sensitive analysis" leading to the ban on Conibear traps but not leghold traps.
"The circumstances here are none so dire," the court said in rejecting a leghold trap ban, ruling that continued use of leghold traps won't hurt the species as a whole.
The appeals court rejected the animal-rights groups' appeal and awarded costs to the defendant, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Maine is still awaiting a decision from the federal Fish and Wildlife Service for a special permit allowing the incidentally harm of Canada lynx through leghold traps.