No new lynx kittens found in Colorado
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER ” Biologists monitoring Colorado’s restored lynx population didn’t find any new kittens this year, spurring speculation that declining numbers of prey could be affecting reproduction.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife just completed its search for dens with kittens. Last year biologists found 11 kittens, down from 50 in 2005.
Biologists have been tracking the number of lynx kittens since 2003. That’s when the lynx trapped in Canada and released in southwestern Colorado since 1999 began reproducing.
Researchers believe that this year’s lack of reproduction might be due to a drop in the number of snowshoe hares, the cats’ main prey. Similar drops have been documented in Canada during fluctuations of the number of hares.
Division of Wildlife spokesman Joe Lewandowski said the agency is taking a long-term view of the restoration program.
“It could be 10 years before we can say, ‘Yeah, it’s a success,”‘ Lewandowski said.
A total of 218 of the long-haired mountain cats trapped in Canada and Alaska have been released in the San Juan Mountains since 1999. A total of 116 lynx kittens are known to have been born in the state.
Biologists estimate that at least 125 lynx released and born in the state are still alive.
A major milestone was reached last year when a Colorado-born lynx gave birth to two kittens, raising hopes that the population can become self-sustaining. The division has no immediate plans to bring in more lynx.
“With the number of lynx currently in Colorado, we believe they could go two or three years without reproduction and still have enough survivors to rebuild the population,” said Rick Kahn, the program’s lead biologist.
Dozens of the transplanted cats have died since the program began. Some have been hit by cars, killed by other animals and shot.
The lynx, a federally listed threatened species, are similar in size to bobcats, with male cats averaging 24 pounds and females averaging 20 pounds.