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Lynx spotted in Aspen

Janet Urquhart
A lynx, spotted near an Aspen bike path early this week, caught the eye of several local residents, but the injured cat was found dead on Tuesday. (Courtesy Graeme Means)
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A handful of local residents were elated to spy a lynx in Aspen early this week.But the animal, which had migrated north from Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, was dead by Tuesday, according to the state Division of Wildlife.DOW officials recovered the body of the lynx from private property. A necropsy will be performed in an attempt to determine the cause of the animal’s death, according to Randy Hampton, DOW spokesman.The lynx, a female, was among the cats the DOW has released in the southern mountains of Colorado since it began a reintroduction effort in 1999. The cat was wearing a radio collar and had suffered a leg injury, Hampton said.The division knew the cat was hurt and had tried unsuccessfully to trap it, he said.

“In all likelihood, the reason people saw it and the reason a person was able to snap a picture is because the animal was hurt and hungry,” Hampton said. “The animals are usually pretty elusive.”Graeme Means snapped a photograph of the cat from an Aspen bike trail on Monday. It appeared to be sunning itself, he said.”I rode home, came back 20 minutes later and it was still there,” he said. “I’d never even seen a bobcat before. I thought it was a bobcat because I didn’t even think there were any lynx around here.”Means’ photo was forwarded to both the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and the DOW in search of confirmation that the tuft-earred cat was a lynx. The DOW collar, Means said, wasn’t visible from his vantage point.Andre Wille, a biology and chemistry teacher at Aspen High School, also spotted the lynx, near the Marolt Open Space, but said he feared something was wrong with the animal.

Wille said he has kept an eye out in the backcountry for years in hopes of spotting a lynx.”I was excited, but I was sad to see it in an urban area,” he said.Jim Kravitz, director of naturalist programs at ACES, was both intrigued to see photos of what appeared to be a lynx and dismayed to learn of its fate. But, he reasoned, the cat’s arrival here speaks well of the reintroduction effort.”To know that program is a success … that’s a good thing,” he said.Tanya Shenk, the DOW biologist overseeing the reintroduction program, was in Aspen recently for a presentation on the effort during ACES’ weekly Naturalist Nights lecture series.

Shenk confirmed the presence of lynx that have successfully mated in the sprawling Independence Pass area east of Aspen, Kravitz said.With 14 more lynx scheduled for release next month, 218 of the animals will have been released in Colorado, Hampton said. The DOW is currently tracking 93 of them with radio collars. The cats are released into the San Juans because the area is remote and boasts a good supply of the snowshoe hare, which is an important part of their diet. A small, secondary population has migrated into the central mountains of Colorado, he said.Before the reintroduction began, the last known lynx in Colorado was killed in 1973, Hampton said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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