Snaring lawsuit would focus on threat to endangered species

With BC-ME–Coyote Snaring, BC-ME–Coyote Snaring-Glance

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Associated Press Writer

A dead bald eagle found by a Penobscot Indian warden may become key evidence if an anti-snaring group files a federal lawsuit to stop Maine’s coyote snaring program.

The NoSnare Task Force notified state officials of its intent to sue on Feb. 11, and a lawsuit now appears inevitable since anti-snaring forces are losing a battle in the Legislature.

One bill to ban all snaring was killed in committee. A second proposal, designed to end coyote snaring and favored by the Maine Audubon Society, was amended to preserve the existing program with added oversight.

Both the House and Senate have given preliminary approval to the amended version, and NoSnare is turning its attention to the courts.

The group says the snaring device is indiscriminate, and snarers have no incentive to file a report when they catch animals other than coyotes. NoSnare also notes that two bald eagles were caught in snares in the 1980s when the bird was still listed as endangered. A threatened Canada lynx was snared in 1993.

The group also believes a third bald eagle, found early last spring by a Penobscot Indian warden on a small island in Olamon Stream, was snared. The bird had neck injuries that were consistent with snaring, said Mark McCollough of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Bruce Merrill, NoSnare’s lawyer, said the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is not doing what’s required under the Endangered Species Act.

“What we would like to see is the program abolished,” Merrill said. “I think we’re going to be able to document the three bald eagles and the one lynx.”

Federal officials also have concerns about snaring’s possible impact on threatened bald eagles, Canada lynx and gray wolves.

In a December letter, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended changes to protect animals on the federal endangered species list.

Those recommendations included closing certain areas in northern Maine to snaring; requiring more frequent checks of snares; and ending snaring in March, when lynx are breeding.

AP-ES-04-12-03 1252EDT

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