Colorado Division of Wildlife released 41 lynx last winter as part of an on-going effort to restore the native species to the state. The lynx were captured in British Columbia, Yukon Territory and Alaska by licensed trappers. The project continues this winter.
“Over the next one to two years, 80-90 percent of the lynx in western Canada will die of starvation following the collapse of the snowshoe population-the lynx major diet,” Colorado biologist Gene Byrne explained. The Colorado reintroduction is occurring now as biologists take advantage of the current boom in lynx population when animals are available to be trapped and relocated.
Project co-ordinators are delighted with last winter’s relocation. Although biologists wanted all the lynx to survive they anticipated obstacles to the lynx survival and planned for a 50 percent mortality. There were 8 lynx lost-20 percent mortality-five died from starvation-a male and female within three weeks of release, two were shot and one urns hit on the freeway. Biologists were perplexed by the starvation since there was an abundance of snowshoe hare.
Of the two shot, one incident resulted in the arrest of Lloyd Mulkey of Deridder, Louisiana. District Wildlife manager Dave Harper followed a trail from the kill site to the hunter’s camp. Harper took Mulkey into custody and seized his ride and ATV. Mulkey is, charged with killing a state endangered species, shooting from a road and having a loaded firearm in his vehicle. If convicted he faces a fine of up to $100.000 and a year in jail. Speculation is that, considering the public support of the project, Mulkey may receive the maximum sentence. Byren said, “This incident underscores the seriousness of killing an endangered species such as a lynx.”
The 20 percent mortality encouraged researchers to mane to phase two with the relocation of an additional 50 lynx this winter. British Columbia co-ordinator Paul Blackwell said that participating trappers had their lynx allotment shortly Ifter the season opened in December. After several weeks of monitoring and veterinarian inspection, the lynx were shipped to Colorado to be released in a remote area of the Gunnison National Forest.
The collared lynx are aircraft monitored daily. If a signal is not received within several hours, ground trackers are sent out from project headquarters to investigate.
B.C. trappers used a new system this year which involved a foothold that pops out from a springloaded trap hidden in a baited “cubby”-a small trapper designed natural tunnel with one opening. The lynx are not injured in the trapping process as, unlike some other animals, they do not struggle when caught.
Objections seem to have vanished with the project’s success. None of the concerns of the Canadian Humane Society and Furbearers materialized and Colorado’s Audubon Society and similar groups are delighted with this year’s outcome.
The Colorado wildlife personnel have successfully reintroduced Rocky Mountain Elk, greenback cut-throat trout, peregrine falcons, river otters, wild turkeys and moose and plan to continue their track-record.
The 1999-2000 winter is the second of a three year plan. With mortality expected to drop even further, the return of this Colorado resident appears to be confirmed.