The FWP Commission adopted final bobcat, lynx and fisher harvest quotas for the 1998-99 furbearer season at its meeting in Helena on August 8.
The final quotas adopted will allow a total of two lynx to be trapped, one from each side of the Continental Divide. A tentative quota proposed by the Commission in July would have allowed three lynx to be harvested in Montana during the 1998-99 season, which would have been an increase of one lynx over the quota that has been in place since 1991.
FWP received several public comments on the proposed lynx quota apparently as the result of a recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision that the lynx was "warranted, but precluded" from listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. FWP Commission Chairman Stan Meyer, Great Falls, questioned the federal finding primarily because it did not reflect current population information about the status of lynx in Montana.
Meyer said the FWP Commission further questioned why the northern Rocky Mountain region, particularly Montana--where the lynx is faring well-- was included with the entire lower 48 states when this decision was made.
FWP information indicates that the lynx population in Montana is somewhere between 740 and 1,040 animals, said Brian Giddings, FWP furbearer coordinator in Helena. This population size is based on home range sizes of several radio-marked lynx and the amount of currently occupied habitat in Montana.
Giddings said FWP collects lynx population data from several sources including: snow-track surveys; harvest statistics; trapper logbooks; and species occurrence reports. FWP's snow-tracking survey data have shown an increase in the number of tracks since 1990, as well as high track detection rates for lynx, which generally range between six to 10 sets of tracks for every 100 miles of survey routes traveled, Giddings said.
These data sources indicate an extensive species distribution that is very similar to the lynx's historic range in the state. Lynx apparently occupy 20 to 24 percent of Montana's western counties.
"Current harvest levels are very conservative under FWP's quota system," Giddings said. "Between two and five lynx have been harvested annually since 1990. This harvest level is not considered to be detrimental to the current population levels in Montana."
The 1997 lynx trapping season will open on December 1.