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Groups Seek Lynx Protection From Federal Carnivore Control – Coalition Seeks Help From Federal Court

October 2, 2003
Nicole Rosmarino, Ph.D., WildEarth Guardians, (505) 988-9126 x156
In This Release
#DefendCarnivores, #EndTheWarOnWildlife
Santa Fe, NM – A coalition of conservation and animal protection groups today is asking a federal court to intervene in the refusal by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services to take basic precautions to protect newly released lynx inhabiting Colorado and New Mexico. Despite the continuing success of Colorado’s popular lynx release program, and the birth of at least sixteen wild lynx kittens in southwestern Colorado this summer, Wildlife Services (formerly known as Animal Damage Control) is continuing to engage in numerous lethal activities throughout the Southern Rockies designed to kill native carnivores such as bobcats, mountain lions, bears, coyotes and foxes. These activities, which include using poison, leghold and body-crushing traps, snares, and aerial gunning, are highly indiscriminate and can accidentally kill protected lynx.

The coalition is asking Wildlife Services to formally consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over potential impacts to lynx from predator control activities in western Colorado and north-central New Mexico. Consultation is required because the lynx is listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. This consultation would allow the Fish and Wildlife Service to recommend measures designed to protect lynx from accidental killing and set a limit for the amount of accidental or “incidental” killings allowed.

“We are celebrating the birth of lynx kittens in the wild for the first time in decades, while simultaneously watching Wildlife Services set poisons, snares, and traps that might kill these very animals,” said Erin Robertson, Staff Biologist with Center for Native Ecosystems. “We are simply asking that Wildlife Services consult with lynx experts to make sure that lynx aren’t killed accidentally.”

At least sixteen lynx kittens were born deep in the rugged San Juan Mountains, and more than 60 adult lynx are now roaming across western Colorado and northern New Mexico. Most of the lynx are in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, but some have ranged north of Interstate 70 and others into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico. While this summer’s reproduction is a major breakthrough in the effort to recover lynx in the Southern Rockies, the success of the program is still an open question. Lynx kittens must survive to reproduce themselves, and lynx deaths must stay low.

“The State of Colorado has invested a great deal of resources and energy in our lynx recovery program,” said San Miguel County (Colorado) Commissioner Art Goodtimes. “Wildlife Services needs to take basic precautions, including consulting with the Fish and Wildlife Service, to ensure they don’t accidentally kill lynx.” The San Miguel County Board of Commissioners, the Pitkin County Board of Commissioners, and San Juan County Commissioner Peter McKay all expressed support for the proposal to release additional lynx in Colorado last spring.

The coalition is particularly concerned about Wildlife Services activities because their predator control methods pose a great risk to non-target species. “Leghold traps, strangulation neck snares, and poisons do not discriminate,” explained Wendy Keefover-Ring, Carnivore Protection Director for Sinapu. “We are concerned that lynx will be mistakenly killed by poison or traps set for other animals.”

“Any species, whether the family dog or the imperiled lynx, can fall prey to such lethal land mines,” added Camilla Fox, National Campaign Director of the Animal Protection Institute. The vulnerability of lynx to traps set for other predators is well known. For example, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s November 14, 2002 Biological Opinion on the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s lynx release program calls for restrictions designed to minimize just this risk.

“The law is very clear,” said Dr. Nicole Rosmarino, Endangered Species Director for WildEarth Guardians. “Wildlife Services is, once again, arrogantly flouting the law.”

Center for Native Ecosystems (Paonia, Colorado), Sinapu (Boulder, Colorado), Animal Protection Institute (Sacramento, California), WildEarth Guardians (Santa Fe, New Mexico), Animal Protection of New Mexico (Albuquerque), and Carson Forest Watch (Llano, New Mexico) filed the lawsuit. The Western Environmental Law Center’s Southwest Office (Taos, New Mexico) is representing the coalition.

Read the complaint (PDF).

For more information about lynx in the Southern Rockies, please visit WildEarth Guardians Lynx webpage.

Other Contact
Erin Robertson, Staff Biologist, Center for Native Ecosystems, (303) 546-0214, Wendy Keefover-Ring, Carnivore Protection Director, Sinapu, (303) 447-8655, Art Goodtimes, San Miguel County Commissioner (CO), (970) 728-3844, Camilla Fox, National Campaign Dir., Animal Protection Inst., (415) 945-9309