BANGOR (AP) – A hearing will resume Tuesday on whether the state of Maine can be held liable whenever federally protected Canada lynx are caught in traps set for other animals.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge John Woodcock told state attorneys that Maine appears to be violating the Endangered Species Act.

Woodcock did not make a ruling but made clear he believes the state has an uphill battle in the lawsuit filed by the Animal Protection Institute.

“I don’t think anyone here is accusing anybody of deliberately trapping lynx, but if trappers are going out … and they accidentally or inadvertently take lynx, then that is a violation of the Endangered Species Act,” Woodcock said.

“I sympathize very much with the state of Maine on this but that is a personal sympathy, not a judicial one,” the judge added.

Trapping season opens in mid-October.

The Animal Protection Institute, which is based in California and has members in Maine, alleges that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is not doing enough to protect lynx, bald eagles and gray wolves from harm caused by state-regulated trapping.

The organization’s lawsuit against state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Roland Martin, which was filed last fall, seeks a court order to end any trapping that could inadvertently capture, injure or kill the three species.

Thirty-four lynx have been caught by trappers in Maine since 1999, including 25 since 2004, according to figures supplied to the court by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Two of the 34 animals died.

Officials say Maine is home to an estimated 200 to 500 lynx, although those numbers have been contested. State officials are seeking a federal permit that would protect the state legally for any “incidental take” of lynx by trappers.

Bald eagles have been removed from the federal list of threatened species and there are no documented populations of wild gray wolves living in Maine.

Chris Taub, an assistant attorney general, and private attorney James Lister, who was representing such groups as the Maine Trappers Association, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, sought to place the liability burden on the individual trapper and argued that trappers could avoid capturing lynx by following state recommendations.

Information from: Bangor Daily News,

AP-ES-09-29-07 0947EDT

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