BILLINGS – Montana wildlife officials have tightened trapping regulations outside Yellowstone and Glacier national parks to reduce the chances that threatened Canada lynx accidentally will be caught.
The changes include restrictions on the types of traps, snares and bait that can be used in special protection zones outside the parks
State wildlife commissioners approved the changes on a 3-1 vote Thursday. Commissioner Gary Wolfe of Missoula cast the dissenting vote, Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim said.
Lynx are medium-sized, snow-loving cats that feed primarily on snowshoe hares. There is no reliable population estimate for the animals, which first gained federal protections as a threatened species in 2000.
The new trapping rules result from a settlement of a federal lawsuit by environmental groups who said Montana wasn't doing enough to keep lynx from being killed. The groups said 15 lynx have been captured since 2000 by trappers seeking bobcats, wolves or other animals.
Representatives of the trapping industry opposed the settlement, saying it was part of an effort to eliminate trapping and would hurt them more than it would help lynx.
Under the new rules, trappers in the special zones outside the parks are largely barred from using so-called body-gripping traps and can use meat for bait only if it is more than 24 hours old. They also are barred from using rabbit or hare parts that can lure lynx, and bobcat trappers must check their traps at least every 48 hours.