Lynx permit up for discussion; Who’ll show up?

Utter the words “incidental take permit” at a meeting of hunters in rural Maine, and you’re likely to get an earful, as state and federal officials are sure to find out in the coming weeks.

Those hunters have long memories, you see. And many of them will tell you a primary reason the state’s deer herd has collapsed in some regions is because the state stopped contracting with trappers to snare and kill coyotes back in 2003.

Whether you completely buy that assessment or not is up to you; I tend to view coyotes as one of several challenges that face our deer herd. Others are more forceful and think of the toothy meat-eaters as Public Enemy Number 1.

Either way, for more than 20 years, coyote snaring had been a part of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s deer management effort.

The concern that led to the snaring program being scrapped: federally protected eagles and lynx were at risk of being trapped inadvertently.

Nearly seven years ago, the then-head of the DIF&W’s bureau of resource management said this about the program: “Is snaring ever going to happen again? … I don’t know.”

That official, Ken Elowe, said his agency would like to produce a plan that would convince federal officials that snaring posed no risk to lynx or eagles.

If that happened, Elowe said at the time, an incidental take permit — described by a BDN reporter in that 2007 story as “a federal document stating that Maine officials have done everything possible to ensure the safety of protected species and thus would not be held liable under the Endangered Species Act if a small number of protected animals were killed” — wouldn’t even be necessary.

As we all know, Elowe’s wish didn’t come true. The feds were unswayed. An incidental take permit would be needed if coyote snaring were to continue.

Hunters waited. Those opposed to trapping rallied their forces and filed lawsuits. Winters turned particularly harsh. Deer died by the thousands. And the coyote — casting the critter as “The Big Bad Wolf” in this saga wouldn’t be too much of a stretch — drew more and more blame for the plight of the deer herd.

Which brings us to today.

The DIF&W has (finally, some would say) applied to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for an incidental take permit as it applies to Canada lynx.

Now it’s your turn to get involved.

Both agencies are accepting comments on the DIF&W plan, and on the USFWS’s draft environmental assessment for that incidental take application. You’re invited to let the groups know what you think until Feb. 7.

And if you’d like to participate in the process in person, three informal sessions are on tap. Each will include overviews on the permit process, an open house featuring experts from state and federal agencies who will meet with attendees at booths, and a panel discussion.

The sessions:

  • Dec. 13 at the Grand Ballroom at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, 6 p.m.
  • Dec. 14 at the Black Bear Inn in Orono, 6 p.m.
  • Dec. 15 at Bailey Hall at the University of Southern Maine.

There’s been no shortage of rhetoric tossed around when it comes to the issue of snaring, coyotes and the incidental take permit.

After eight years of wrangling, the sessions should be interesting, to say the least.

And as always, if you’ve got an opinion on the matter, I hope you’ll feel free to share it here.



John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.