Sunday, August 13, 2006

No Colorado lynx to be released next spring

August 9, 2006
Herald Staff Report

A precipitous decline in the number of known Canada lynx born in Southern Colorado this year has led the Colorado Division of Wildlife to cancel the release of lynx next spring.

"Given the high number of lynx currently out there, we want to give them an opportunity to settle down and establish a stable social structure," said Rick Kahn, terrestrial program manager for the division. "We have some indication from our radio-marked animals that adding new adults via the spring releases to the established population may be disrupting breeding."

On the positive side was the first documentation of a Colorado-born female giving birth. The female, born in 2004, gave birth to two males in mid-June.

The division began its lynx program in 1999, releasing several near Creede, and division biologists estimate the number of lynx in Colorado at about 200. Most of the cats live in the southern mountains, including Southwest Colorado.

In 2003, six litters with 16 kittens were found. In 2004, there were 14 litters with 39 kittens, and in 2005, 18 litters with 50 young. This year's 11 kittens came from four dens. But the agency said that more kittens likely were born to mothers that can't be tracked because they aren't equipped with radio collars.

Despite the decline in the number of dens, the rate of lynx mortality has not increased and most cats are staying in established territories, the agency said. The examination of dead lynx by veterinarians show that the animals had been healthy, leading biologists to conclude that the decline in lynx births this spring was not related to the amount of food available.

The division released 218 lynx from Canada and Alaska near Creede in 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. Field crews found 116 kittens during spring and winter searches from 2003 to 2006.

The division will evaluate the need for additional lynx releases and make recommendations to the Colorado Wildlife Commission next year, the news release said.

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