Monday, July 30, 2007

No young lynx found this year

The Colorado Division of Wildlife recently completed its annual search for lynx kittens. No dens with kittens were found this year. Although disappointing, the DOW said, the result was not completely unexpected given the biology of lynx and snowshoe hares, their primary prey item.
DOW biologists and researchers believe that the lack of lynx reproduction is most likely due to a decline in snowshoe hare numbers as part of a natural cycle in hare abundance. In Canada, it is well known that the population of lynx fluctuates with the cycles of snowshoe hare population. No formal studies have been conducted to determine if snowshoe hare populations fluctuate in Colorado.

The agency started a study in early 2006. In the spring of 2006, DOW researchers found only four lynx dens and a total of 11 kittens, a large decline from the three previous years. Researchers now suspect that this was an indication that the drop in the snowshoe hare population might have started in late 2005 or early 2006. DOW biologists estimate that at least 125 cats are alive. Trapping operations last winter found that adult animals were in good physical condition. But few of the kittens born in 2005 and 2006 survived.

No new lynx were released last winter because of the low reproduction rate during 2006. Biologists were concerned that adding more cats could disrupt some of the lynx natural social structures or contribute to food-shortage problems.The DOW started planning the lynx reintroduction program in 1997. 218 lynx have been reintroduced. 116 lynx kittens are known to have been born in Colorado.

1 comment:

Teleken said...

No kittens but the cats have been spreading. I backcountry tour near Independence Pass and met biologists who trapped and tagged 3 cats in four drainages over two days last Winter. They told me each one had travelled up from the Wolf Creek Pass release area. They also said they found one in Western Kansas and another in Southern Wyoming last year.