Baby Lynx Found in Southwest
Colorado Division of Wildlife researchers found two baby lynx huddled with their mother at a remote site in southwestern Colorado Wednesday, the first documented reproduction since the agency’s lynx reintroduction began in 1999 under direction from Governor Bill Owens.
“The first step toward recovery was the reintroduction of lynx into Colorado,” Gov. Owens said. “The next step is a population sustaining itself in the wild. This is an encouraging and important step toward the ultimate goal of recovery of the lynx here in Colorado.”
“These lynx kittens represent an enormous milestone in species recovery,” said Greg Walcher, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “To be able to say we actually left Colorado a better place than we found it, we must be willing to do more than just say we care about endangered species. We must be willing to actually work toward recovering these magnificent animals.”
Wildlife biologists found the lynx and kittens in a den amid downed timber on a steep hillside at 11,000 feet in typical lynx habitat. Both of the kittens and the mother were in excellent condition, and there are lots of snowshoe hares in the area. The researchers were at the site for only 11 minutes. The mother stayed close to her kittens, typically the case with lynx mothers when humans approach a den. Canadian researchers have found that brief interruptions by humans do no disturb the bond between the mother and kitten and have not caused abandonment.
The Division first released 41 lynx in 1999 and another 55 in 2000 in the rugged San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. The area was chosen because of the availability of habitat and prey.
While Division researchers had determined that lynx were finding adequate prey species and had settled into suitable habitat, they hadn’t documented reproduction until this week. Carnivore researchers in Colorado and elsewhere suggested that breeding may not have occurred because the density of lynx is too low. They recommended releasing more lynx to determine once and for all if the wild cats could still thrive in the state. Last month, 32 lynx captured in Quebec and British Columbia were released in the same core area of southwestern Colorado. The Division plans to release 50 more in each of the next two years and up to 15 lynx in 2006 and 2007.