Saturday, March 03, 2007

Colo. lynx have migrated to 10 states since reintroduction

Lynx Survives Journey From San Juans To Cheyenne

Paul Day

(CBS4) CHEYENNE, Wyo. Since 1999 wildlife officials have released 218 lynx in southwestern Colorado. It's believed most still live somewhere in the San Juan Mountains, but several have strayed thousands of miles away, including one cat who turned up in Wyoming sporting a taste for chicken.

Lauriel Winters lives on the outskirts of Cheyenne. One morning she found an unexpected and unpleasant scene inside her chicken coop.

"It looked like a crime scene," she said. "There was blood splattered everywhere."

Winters was no stranger to having a coop raid and was fairly certain it was not the usual suspect (a fox).

"There were no feathers, no parts nor pieces," she said.

The next week her dogs spotted the most likely culprit, in broad daylight. It was a lynx. She called Wyoming wildlife officials to report the big cat, believing it was a bobcat. The game warden was skeptical of her assessment.

"I just envisioned a large overweight house cat with a pet collar," said Wyoming Game Warden Jon Stephens.

This "cat" did have a collar and the "cat" was a lynx.

"It had the radio collar and the tufts on the ears and the big fluffy feet," said Francine Stewart, a friend of Winters who also spotted the cat.

The lynx was fine having his picture snapped, but when Stephens brought out a catch pole he began hissing.

"It sure was an intimidating sight," Stephens said.

Stephens climbed into a nearby tree, then slipped the noose around the lynx's neck, much to the cat's chagrin.

"The cat was so strong, it threw them both on the ground," said Winters.

Wildlife officers were left speculating as to why the lynx was in Wyoming eating chicken rather than in the San Juans feasting on snow hares.

"I think he was really trying to go home," Winters said. "I really do."

That's because this lynx, like the others, came from British Columbia. This particular cat began his United States journey in 2004 when he was released near Creede. His radio signal died after being picked up near Steamboat Springs. But that last leg to Cheyenne is 170 miles across dangerous territory.

That journey meant crossing Interstate 25, bypassing aggressive dogs and not being spotted by armed homeowners. The lynx could died at any of those junctures.

The cat was returned to Colorado and re-released, after having a new radio collar attached.

This lynx is not the only one to roam. The big cats have turned up in ten other states. A total of 80 are confirmed dead.

The welcome news is that the lynx are naturally reproducing in Colorado. Last year four dens were found with 11 kittens.

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