Ski to a hut, look for lynx | AspenTimes.com

Ski to a hut, look for lynx

Aspen Times Staff Report
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” People who use the 10th Mountain Division Hut system are being asked to put a twist in their backcountry visits this winter.

Hut users are being asked to identify and record lynx tracks they find in the snow to help the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s research. The effort results from a partnership between the DOW and the Aspen-based 10th Mountain Division Hut Association.

There have been 218 Canada lynx released in Colorado since 1999. The wildlife division has also documented the births of 116 kittens in the state since the reintroduction.

There are about 40,000 human visitors to backcountry huts each winter, so the wildlife division hopes to enlist the help of as least some of them to learn more about the activities of the elusive cats.

All released lynx have small radio collars to allow DOW researchers to monitor their locations, but some of the collars have been lost or damaged. Also, newly-born lynx kittens do not have collars.

“Tenth Mountain and its hut users will be making a great contribution,” said Tanya Shenk, a DOW lynx biologist. “This is an excellent way for us to get a more complete picture of lynx distribution in Colorado. The more people we have looking for lynx tracks the better picture we will have.”

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Each of the 30 backcountry huts has a lynx kit that includes a guide to learn and identify lynx tracks. There are special forms for recording lynx track sightings and instructions for mailing the completed forms to the DOW.

Lynx are most often found above an elevation of 9,000 feet, as are 10th Mountain huts, which are located in the backcountry between Aspen, Leadville and Vail.

Ben Dodge, 10th Mountain executive director, explained that the lynx track project exemplifies 10th Mountain’s commitment to promote a better understanding and appreciation of Colorado’s natural environment.

“I think this collaborative effort demonstrates the important and valuable connection between quality backcountry recreation and good stewardship of the forest,” Dodge said.