The return of Colorado's missing lynx

Cat’s saga highlights the challenges wandering wildlife face in a growing West


Over the past decade, the Colorado Division of Wildlife has released 218 radio-collared Canada lynx in a $500,000-per-year effort to re-establish the state's population. The rare, tuft-eared cats have spread through Colorado's high-altitude conifer forests, and even to other states, settling primarily within the original release area in the San Juan Mountains, as well as on the slopes of the Sawatch and Elk mountains to the northeast (see orange areas on map). But adjusting to life in one of the most heavily populated states in their range hasn't been easy for the wide ranging newcomers. As of last August, 82 had died in Colorado, and 30 had died in other states. People were the leading cause, thanks to vehicle collisions and gunshots (see map). The cats have also stopped reproducing, and no one is quite sure why.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the lynx as threatened in 2000, but declined last February to designate critical habitat for it in Colorado. Now, the cat's primary protection in the Southern Rockies is a new Forest Service plan designed to promote lynx recovery and soften, though not eliminate, the impacts of activities like logging, mineral development and recreation on 7.5 million acres of habitat. In December, several environmental groups appealed the plan, claiming it falls short at a time when the southern lynx population is especially fragile. The map highlights some of the challenges the cats face: (click on the image twice to see a large, readable version of the map)

Anonymous says:
Jan 29, 2009 04:41 PM
The map mentions the concern that competing predators such as coyotes could use trails in deep snow to access lynx habitat and prey and that the science on this is inconclusive. The only study that I am aware on this was conducted by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in the Seeley Lake area and found no evidence of other predators using snowmobile trails. Are there conflicting studies that I'm unaware of?
Anonymous says:
Feb 04, 2009 09:48 AM
The Forest Service study on Vail Pass references a handful of studies. You can find a link to it in this blog:[…]/

if you click on the "study" link in the second paragraph.

I believe the Lynx Conservation Assessment put together by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 2000 also reviews the studies that existed on this subject at that time, but I haven't combed through the paper in a while.
Anonymous says:
Aug 10, 2009 07:14 PM
There have been two other studies aside from the Seeley lake study. One in Utah in the 90's and the second in Wyoming within the last few years. I believe both studies have cited significant evidence supporting the theory that coyotes use compacted trails to access areas ( Lynx habitat ) that they would normally not use. The idea being that wyoming and utah have a less dense snowpack than montana, thus allowing for montana Lynx to access these areas without sinking into the snow. Look into Continental vs. Costal snowpack! Hope this helps.