Four More Lynx Kittens Located
Four more lynx kittens have been found with their mother by a Colorado Division of Wildlife tracking crew at a remote, high-elevation den in southwestern Colorado, bringing the total number of lynx kittens to eight this spring.
“We found the lynx Saturday at about 11,000 feet in a den under a very large downed log that sheltered the kittens from rain and snow,” said Tanya Shenk, the Division’s lead lynx researcher. They were only a few days old and appeared to be in good health when briefly examined by Shenk.
For good measure, Shenk also noted two snowshoe hares—the lynx favorite prey—as she and the crew approached the den.
The mother, a Yukon lynx released in 2000, apparently mated with a Yukon male from the 200 release based on radio signals that allow the Division to track their movements. The same pair may have bred last year based on radio tracking, but no young were found. This time, three males and one female kitten are the result.
Three lynx have now given birth within the core area of southwestern Colorado: a British Columbia female released in 2000 was found with two kittens May 21 and a second female from British Columbia was found with two kittens May 26.
The Division has released 129 lynx, 41 in 1999, 55 in 2000 and 33 this spring. The Division hopes to release another 50 lynx in 2004 and 50 more in 2005. Fifteen lynx will then be released in both 2006 and 2007.
Shenk’s crew is currently tracking 63 lynx. Another 45 are confirmed dead with human-caused mortality from gunshots and vehicle collisions the biggest cause of death. The status of the rest is unknown, though at least two have slipped their radio collars and the batteries have run down on the collars of others.
The first pair of lynx kittens found last Wednesday was in a den beneath the trunk of an Englemann spruce on a steep mountainside at 10,600. Both the mother from British Columbia and the father from Yukon Territory were released April 2, 2000.
Snowshoe hares, the primary diet of lynx in winter, are common in the areas where the lynx were found.
Division biologists hope there will be more births in 2003. This spring, radio signals from collars indicated that nine pairs of lynx were together during breeding season, offering hope that more mothers may be about to give birth.
“For some of the lynx, all of the factors necessary for successful reproduction have come together,” Shenk said. She said the factors include having a female and male in the same area for one to two years and having sufficient prey so they’re in good condition.
“What we have learned is that for all these factors to come to fruition takes a number of years,” Shenk explained. But she pointed out that based on monitoring information the Division has collected, not all females have established stable territories while others are have chosen areas where there are no males.
“That’s why augmentation (bringing in more lynx) is necessary to increase densities so that all the females have the opportunity to breed,” she said.
The lynx program has been paid for primarily with Colorado Lottery money through the voter-approved Great Outdoors Colorado program and the Division’s Nongame and Endangered Species Checkoff on the Colorado income tax form.
But additional funding is necessary to keep the program operating and the Colorado Wildlife Heritage Foundation is working to raise money to support reintroduction. To learn more about helping lynx recovery in Colorado, call the Heritage Foundation at (303) 291-7238.