Saturday, December 23, 2006

Wandering lynx caught in Utah, sent back to Colorado

Officials feared they might be mistaken for bobcats, which are not protected

By Brett Prettyman
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune

Article Last Updated:12/21/2006 01:09:38 AM MST

Wildlife officials in Utah have captured two Canada lynx and sent them back to Colorado. The animals, listed as threatened on the Endangered Species List, were caught Dec. 7 and Dec. 12, after being treed by dogs and tranquilized.

Employees from Wildlife Services, a federal agency that manages predators and nuisance wildlife, first caught a female on the north end of the Book Cliffs in eastern Utah. The animal was transported to Meeker, Colo., and handed over to Colorado Department of Wildlife officials.

A male lynx was caught nearly a week later in the Mineral Mountains between Beaver and Milford. The male was delivered to Grand Junction, Colo., where officials picked him up.

The animals migrated from the San Juan Mountains in Colorado where state wildlife officials started a reintroduction program in 1999. Once Utah biologists learned the locations of the two lynx, they moved quickly to catch the animals.

Trapping season for bobcats, a species not federally protected, started in Utah on Nov. 16 and officials feared the lynx could be mistaken for the smaller cats. In addition to being taller and heavier than bobcats, lynx are more of a grayish color while bobcats are more reddish. Lynx also are easily identified by a tuft of hair on the point of each ear.

Kevin Bunnell, mammals program coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said both of the animals were in good condition when they were captured. He said the lynx would probably have been captured before the trapping season opened, but Colorado officials had stopped sending updates to DWR biologists several months ago.

"They had been in the state and we were not aware of it," he said. "Once we realized they were in some vulnerable places we decided we better move them. There was some miscommunication; it won't happen again."

One other Canada lynx has been captured in Utah and returned to Colorado. DWR biologists caught a male lynx in Emery County in November 2004.

Other lynx have spent time in Utah, but eventually moved back to Colorado. Each animal introduced to the lynx project is fitted with a tracking collar, but kittens born in Colorado may wander into other states and go undetected.

Prior to the 2004 trapping, there had been no confirmed sightings of wild lynx since the 1970s.

* BRETT PRETTYMAN can be contacted at brettp@sltrib.com or 801-257-8902.

http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_4877701

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