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Lynx returns to Colorado in January

Lynx were once natives of Colorado but haven't been seen there since 1973   

December 14, 1998
Web posted at: 11:45 AM EST

By Environmental News Network staff

(ENN) -- The Colorado Division of Wildlife will release up to 15 lynx this January in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado with additional releases planned for later in the winter.

Lynx were once natives of Colorado but haven't been seen there since 1973 when two lynx were trapped near Vail. Since then, only tracks identified by a biologist as those of lynx have been seen. Biologists believe they were chased away by logging, trapping, construction and ski area development.

The lynx was listed as a Colorado Endangered species by the Wildlife Commission in 1975. Numerous investigations since 1979 have failed to positively confirm lynx presence in the state.

Division biologist Gene Byrne, who has been on a lynx scouting trip to British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska, has returned with agreements to provide more than 50 lynx.

"Colorado will receive the first 10 to 15 lynx from British Columbia around the first of January," Byrne said. "We should be able to receive approximately 20 lynx from the Yukon between Feb. 15 and March 10. The next batch of lynx, possibly up to 20, will come from Alaska between March 15 and April 1. We could also get lynx from the Northwest Territories, if needed."

"All the provinces and Alaska were willing to work with us, and the trappers seemed willing," Byrne said.

The Colorado Wildlife Commission approved the reintroduction of lynx and wolverine Nov. 12. If the reintroduction is successful, it could be the first step toward a successful recovery of the lynx in Colorado.

The lynx recovery plan calls for a two-to-one sex ratio -- two females for every male. "The cost could be as high as $1,000 per animal, including veterinarian bills, transportation costs and the actual cost of live-capturing the animals," Byrne said.

Once trapped, Byrne explained the lynx must be held there for "seven or eight days. This will allow the vets ample time to check on the health of the animals."

Once the lynx are ready to ship, they will be taken to Denver International Airport for inspection.

Holding facilities in Colorado should be completed by mid-December, according to Division biologist Dave Kenvin. Transportation boxes should be ready by then, as well.

Four temporary employees will be hired to monitor the animals once they're on the ground in Colorado. The monitoring plan calls for ground monitoring by the temporary employees, as well as up to three airplane flights per week to follow the radio-collared animals with sophisticated telemetry equipment.

At its November meeting, where the commission approved the plan to reintroduce both lynx and wolverine into Colorado, biologists told the commission they'd concentrate on lynx this year and wolverine next year. "We just don't have the manpower or time to work on both this year," explained lead biologist John Seidel.

That doesn't mean the Division reintroduction team won't be busy working on the wolverine, however. Rocky Mountain National Park is a possible wolverine reintroduction site. Park service officials have pledged to help pay for any release within the national park and to lend their expertise to the recovery effort.

The second lynx release is planned for the winter of 1999-2000 in a remote area of the Gunnison National Forest.

Several conservation groups have been working to encourage the lynx introduction. Others have been protesting ski area expansion saying the expansion ruined important lynx habitat.

A group called Earth Liberation Front even claimed responsibility for the fires that leveled three buildings and damaged four ski lifts at the top of Vail Mountain in October, saying it did it "on behalf of the lynx."

Nobody knows exactly how many lynx roam in the United States, but environmentalists think the figure is fewer than 2,000.

Copyright 1998, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved

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