The U.S
. Fish
 Service is
 starting a review of federally
 Canada lynx
 at a time when the largest
 population of
 the cats in
the Lower 48 appears to
 be poised for a
The end of clear-cutting in Maine with the Forest
 Practices Act of 1989 has allowed forests to fill in
, taking away some of the habitat preferred by
snowshoe hares upon which lynx feed, potentially
 reducing populations of both species, said Jim
Zelenak, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
 Service in Montana.
The latest estimates from federal scientists put the
 number of Canada lynx in Maine at about 500;
 that’s fewer than a state estimate of 750 to 1,000
 lynx five years ago.
“There’s quite a bit of discussion about what is an
appropriate number of lynx to shoot for in Maine,”
 Zelenak said. “That is something we’ll talk about
 in the status review.”
The lynx population grew in Maine after clear-cutting
 — in large part to eradicate spruce budworm — in
 the 1970s and 1980s created the ideal habitat for
 snowshoe hares. The pest, largely eradicated today,
eats the needles of fir and spruce trees.
Historically, there have been smaller numbers of
 lynx in New Hampshire, where they’re thought to
 have spread from Maine. There also have been
lynx sightings in Vermont.
There’s still hope that habitat can be maintained
 for the hares that provide subsistence to the lynx
Federal wildlife and conservation officials have
worked with four land owners to manage about
 600,000 acres for lynx by cutting 40 percent of the
 trees, then returning six to eight years later to
cut the remainder, said Mark McCollough, an
 endangered species biologist for the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service in Maine.
The five-year review, to be completed by this
 summer, is the first since Canada lynx wer
e declared threatened in 2000. Designations
 of critical habitat have been made in parts
 of Montana, Maine, Wyoming, Washington
 State, Idaho and Minnesota.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will gather
 the best scientific information to clarify threats
 that could jeopardize lynx populations; the
information will be used in determining whether
 or not a formal recovery plan is needed, Zelenak
Under a separate process, the agency has been
 working with the state of Maine on an incidental
 take program.
Animal welfare advocates are renewing their cal
l for tighter trapping restrictions in Maine after two
Canada lynx got caught in traps and died. Maine
 put temporary restrictions in place for a 90-day
 period, giving state officials time to craft a l
onger-term solution before the next trapping
 season begins in late October.