Lynx sightings increasing in area |

Lynx sightings increasing in area

This photo provided by the Colorado Division of Wildlife shows a Canada lynx, wearing a radio transmitter collar, dashing into the wilderness of the San Juan Mountain about 30 miles north of South Fork, Colo., after being released Saturday, April 1, 2006, by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Lynx are listed as a threatened species in the United States under the Endangered Species Act. (AP Photo/Colorado Division of Wildlife, Joe Lewandowski)

A dead lynx isn’t the only lynx hanging around Aspen.The Colorado Division of Wildlife tracked two of the reclusive animals last month a few miles southwest of Aspen. In February, the U.S. Forest Service photographed a lynx near Independence Pass.Those sightings were separate from the unfortunate cat spotted earlier this winter on bike trails west of Aspen. The animal wouldn’t run away from people, leading wildlife officers to suspect it was injured. It died soon after it was spotted, and a necropsy showed it had suffered a severe leg injury and starved to death.But the secluded mountain terrain in the White River National Forest that surrounds Aspen has proved to be good habitat, according to wildlife division spokesman Randy Hampton and the U.S. Forest Service. The wildlife division has checked reports of a lynx living as close to civilization as Burnt Mountain – between Snowmass Ski Area and Buttermilk.

“We did have a report of one in that area,” Hampton said. “We haven’t been able to confirm it.”A lynx recovery program began in the wildlife division in 1999. Lynx disappeared from Colorado in the early 1970s. Since reintroduction started, 218 of the animals have been released, all in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado.Hampton said the agency is aware of 110 lynx births in the wild and 78 deaths. More of both are likely.The cats are cruising, seeking new habitat, and that quest for territory of their own is bringing them through the Aspen area. They might be migrating through, or they might be settling, Hampton said. Some of the lynx have radio collars, so the wildlife division can track their movements.

That data shows that two lynx, one male and one female, were traveling separately 10 to 15 miles south of Burnt Mountain within the last month, Hampton said. It is DOW policy not to reveal specific locations.”It is not unusual for them to go on long walks,” he said. That is an understatement. One of the lynx released in the San Juans showed up in Nebraska. Another migrated to Utah. Both were brought back in state.”We put them in the San Juans because we know we have the best habitat there,” Hampton said. “The movement north [into the Aspen area] is into good habitat. If it wasn’t good habitat they wouldn’t spend time there.”

Forest Service biologists survey likely areas where lynx will locate by using remote cameras and snow-tracking techniques.A lynx was photographed in February after a scent lured it to a survey station. The cat triggered the camera while investigating the scent.”Although several sightings of lynx and their tracks have been documented in Colorado, these are some of the first photographic survey records of lynx on the White River National Forest since lynx were first released in 1999 for the recovery of the species,” the statement from the forest supervisor’s office said. “In the past year, sightings of Canada lynx have greatly increased on White River National Forest, around the Roaring Fork Valley and the surrounding valleys as it becomes re-established into its historic range across Colorado.”Scott Condon’s e-mail address is

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