Success of reintroduction enriches region
Article Last Updated; Sunday, September 19, 2010 12:00AM
A lot of excitement surrounded the release into the Colorado wilderness 11 years ago of the first group of lynx. Those big-footed, big-eared cats that had been born and raised in Canada bounded for the treeline.
The cheering was short-lived. There was a mismatch between the lynx and their prey, the rabbit population. Wildlife personnel apparently had misjudged how long it would take the lynx to adjust to the chase in Southwest Colorado and how plentiful rabbits were, and several lynx were found dead of malnutrition.
Subsequent introductions were immediately more successful. The lynx were kept in captivity longer and given plenty to eat. Fattened up, they had more time to hunt before being successful. Those large padded feet allow the lynx to travel quickly on top of the snow, faster than a rabbit.
The lynx were collared with a radio signal transmitter, and in ensuing years, Coloradans followed their fortunes: More lynx were introduced, and in most years beginning in 2003, there were babies. Several were killed by hunters, either mistakenly or not. A couple traveled extraordinary distances, were captured and returned.
Last week, the Colorado Division of Wildlife pronounced the introduction successful. At least 141 kittens have been born, the DOW reported, and while the total number of lynx is uncertain, it sounds to us as though there could be almost several hundred (by 2006, 218 had been released).
Because the distances are so large and the animals so small, most people never will see a lynx. But knowing they are out there in the San Juan Mountains, part of nature’s panoply, is rewarding.
Thanks to the DOW for making the mix of animal life in Southwest Colorado a little richer.