Your Right to Hunt & Why Canada Lynx Matters

Your Right to Hunt & Why Canada Lynx Matters
By Jeremry Rine, Associate Director of State Services

U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance
U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance

Columbus, OH –-( For years you’ve probably been seeing our press releases talking about the ongoing court battles over the Canada lynx and trapping in both Maine and Minnesota.

Hopefully, you’ve read our latest release highlighting the victory on the recent appeal in Maine.

In the most recent case, the Animal Welfare Institute and the Wildlife Alliance of Maine filed a lawsuit against the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife requesting an injunction to permanently shut down trapping in the state. They claimed that Maine’s trapping regulations allowed for Canada lynx, a species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), to be incidentally caught in traps.

Ultimately, the Court ruled that even if lynx were incidentally caught in traps the antis had to show that accidentally catching a single lynx “irreparably harmed” the lynx population as a whole. In the end, they couldn’t do this. Sportsmen won the case and the subsequent appeal.

If you aren’t a trapper in Maine or in Minnesota there is a good chance that you’ve wondered what the Canada lynx (and the above case) has to do with you. Why does a lawsuit concerning lynx in Maine matter to a hunter in Kansas or a fisherman in Florida?

The answer can be boiled down to two words, legal precedent.

Legal precedents are set when courts interpret what the law says, in this case the ESA. These interpretations are examples for other courts across the country to follow. On the surface, the lynx cases were a simple attack on trapping in Maine and Minnesota. However, had the antis won; the legal precedent set by these cases would have set the stage for much, much more than just a ban on trapping in those states. Anti-hunting groups across the nation could have used the case as basis in other courts to attack hunting, fishing, and trapping.

There are all kinds of ridiculous lawsuits that anti-hunting groups could dream up if they had set a favorable precedent in the lynx cases.

Perhaps they’d set their sights on pheasant hunters in Kansas claiming they are “harassing” an endangered species by simply walking through fields that the species might occupy (harassing an endangered species is prohibited under the ESA). Maybe they’d seek a fishing ban in Florida because fishermen could accidentally catch a fish listed as threatened under the ESA.

The sheer amount of time and money that these groups have spent in court highlights just how important of a precedent the lynx cases could have set for them and how dangerous it could have been for sportsmen. They’re willing to spend years in court and countless dollars on legal fees because they know that if they get that one precedent-setting win it will make it that much easier for them to chip away at hunting, fishing, and trapping in other states.

Fortunately, sportsmen have won the first few rounds in the Lynx battles. Even so, sportsmen can’t turn a blind eye to what is happening in other states because, in the end, something that seems too far away to matter, like the Canada lynx in Maine, could end up playing a pivotal role in whether or not you get to hunt, fish, and trap in your own backyard tomorrow.

The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance is a national association of sportsmen and sportsmen’s organizations that protects the rights of hunters, anglers and trappers in the courts, legislatures, at the ballot, in Congress and through public education programs. Visit

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