Montana looks at trapping restrictions near parks

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HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana wildlife officials are considering stricter regulations in an effort to reduce the chances of Canada lynx being caught in traps set for other animals outside Glacier and Yellowstone national parks.

The plan presented to the state Fish and Wildlife Commission on Thursday is part of a settlement agreement in a lawsuit filed in 2013 by three environmental groups over trapping in the threatened species' habitat.

Several of the settlement's statewide restrictions are already in place, but additional changes are needed in special zones near Yellowstone National Park and a wider area outside Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana, Fish, Wildlife and Parks attorney Aimee Fausser said.

The environmental groups say in their lawsuit that the department violated the federal Endangered Species Act by allowing trapping in lynx habitat. Their attorney, Matthew Bishop, said 15 lynx captures have been reported to the state agency since 2000.

The terms of the settlement are a compromise that took more than six months to reach an agreement, Bishop said.

The changes include restrictions on the types of traps and snares that can be used in the special protection zones. Trappers would only be allowed to use meat for bait if it is more than 24 hours old, and they would be barred for using rabbit or hare parts that would lure lynx.

Bobcat trappers must check their traps at least every 48 hours, under the proposal.

The Montana Trappers Association is opposed to the settlement agreement. Toby Walrath, the group's president, said the lawsuit's aim was to do away with trapping altogether.

"The lynx issue is just one more thing these groups are using to try to eliminate trapping," Walrath said. "It impacts the trapper far more than it improves things for the lynx."

He said he hopes to convince the Fish and Wildlife Commission to approve different regulations.

The commission is taking public comment before making a final decision on the proposal. If it approves the changes, the parties in the lawsuit will ask a federal judge to dismiss the case.

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