Pa. man pleads not guilty to killing 2 protected animals

Posted Aug. 09, 2010, at 11:31 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:34 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A Pennsylvania man charged with violating the Endangered Species Act for allegedly killing two federally protected animals in northern Maine in late 2008 pleaded not guilty Friday in U.S. District Court.

William McCoy, 40, of Fayetteville, Pa., allegedly caught a Canada lynx in one of his traps set in the Aroostook County town of Stacyville and then attempted to discard the lynx’s body. He also is charged with killing a gray jay, a protected migratory bird, in a separate trap that had been set illegally.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk released McCoy on personal recognizance bail. A trial date was set tentatively for Oct. 16 in federal court in Bangor.

If convicted, McCoy faces up to six months in federal prison on each charge. Killing a Canada lynx, which is designated a threatened species, also carries a fine of up to $25,000, while killing a migratory bird carries a fine of up to $15,000.

It was unclear Monday from court documents whether McCoy has the ability to pay a fine. Based on his income and assets, he qualified for a court-appointed attorney, Terence Harrigan of Bangor.

A temporary resident of Maine during trapping season, McCoy was warned earlier in the 2008 trapping season that his trap settings did not comply with Maine rules intended to deter the accidental capture of lynx, bald eagles and other protected species, according to the complaint filed in early July.

He was given a warning at the time, but less than 10 days later wardens confiscated 17 of McCoy’s traps that again had been set illegally, according to the complaint filed by Robert Rothe, a special agent working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Maine.

McCoy pleaded not guilty to the charges on Dec. 3, 2008. But a day later, wardens checking on his traps discovered boot tracks in the snow leading from a tree where he had set traps before to the dead lynx, discarded about 50 yards away. The tree where the trap had been set had claw marks, fur and other signs that the lynx had been caught and died.

During a subsequent interview with wardens, McCoy reportedly confessed to finding the dead lynx in his trap and attempting to hide its carcass in a panic. He also allegedly admitted to burning the boots he had been wearing at the time after learning that investigators were spotted at the site.

The death of the lynx in December 2008 as well as other deaths that season became part of a legal battle between two groups — the Wildlife Alliance of Maine and the Animal Welfare Institute — and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

The two organizations had charged that DIF&W was violating the Endangered Species Act by allowing trapping activities that occasionally injured or killed lynx. A federal judge later rejected the groups’ claims that Maine’s trapping policies could cause irreparable harm to the state’s lynx population.

BDN writer Kevin Miller contributed to this report.

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