An Aroostook County sheet metal company has developed a lynx device which could benefit not just trappers and businesses, but the animals themselves.  It looks a bit like chicken wire wrapped around a plastic bucket, but JB Sheet Metal’s lynx exclusion device is proving to be worth far more than that. 

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In 2014, Maine Department of Inland Fishers and Wildlife issued new regulations to protect lynx from accidental trapping. When Ken LeTourneau, Project Manager for Maine Manufacturers Extension Partnership, saw the guidelines, he thought of Jeff Baker, owner of JB Sheet Metal in Caribou, who developed a prototype in only one month.

JB Sheet Metal

“That month was a whirlwind,” Baker said. Armed with the MDIFW regulations, he and LeTourneau attended several meetings of trappers, who talked about what they needed and helped fine tune the design. “They put out a schematic of what they envisioned would work, but truly we needed input from the trappers,” said Baker. Some wanted a special length, and a game warden weighed in on the modifications.

“The whole trick was the price point,” added LeTourneau. “If you have to buy a device for every trap, that could add up pretty quickly.” As a sheet-metal product manufacturer, Baker was able to purchase large quantities of wire mesh, and already had specialized tools. The device sold for $30-35, depending on size, making it more cost-effective than if trappers built their own.

With a late start and a race through design and manufacture, Baker sold about 60 devices last season. But 75-80 percent of trappers statewide didn’t trap last year due to the new regulations, he said. This year, he estimates that he could sell 1,000 of the devices, and already he’s seen spin-off business from the new product, with trappers requesting trays to carry bait along trap lines and spare tire racks.

Baker says the heart of his business is still ventilation, duct work, and HVAC. They make an oven that attaches to woodstoves, a portable toilet, and custom products, but nothing else like the lynx exclusion device.

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As a Maine MEP project manager for Aroostook and Washington counties, LeTourneau assists manufacturers in researching, evaluating and implementing opportunities for business and technology improvements. “This was essentially product development,” he said.

Maine MEP President Muriel Mosher says the device is useful for Maine trappers, protects an endangered species and benefits local, small business.

 

Maine MEP

Northern Maine Development Commission Executive Director Robert Clark says NMDC is one of the field offices for Maine MEP. He says when one of their employees can assist local manufacturers in becoming more competitive with new manufacturing and management technologies, it is a real benefit to the region and local economy.

 

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