Colorado Division of Wildlife researchers found 46 lynx kittens during their 2005 spring survey – the largest number since reintroduction efforts began in 1999. They estimate more kittens were likely born but not documented since not all female lynx in Colorado can be tracked
The results are a strong indicator that the once-native cats are adapting well to Colorado’s mountains and are again thriving in the southern limit of their historical range. Field researchers found 16 litters spread throughout the central and southern mountains, with 21 females and 25 males. In 2004, researchers documented the birth of 39 kittens.
“It is another excellent lynx reproduction season,” said Tanya Shenk, the DOW’s lead lynx field researcher. “Not only are we finding more litters, but some females are having second and third annual litters in their established home ranges with the same mate. We are starting to see a stable social structure evolve.”
The mother lynx are monitored via radio-telemetry collars, which they are fitted with upon release into the wild.
Since the lynx reintroduction program began in 1999, the DOW has released 204 lynx and recorded 101 kittens born in Colorado. Shenk estimates that as many as 141 of the reintroduced lynx and 28 of the 55 kittens born in 2003 and 2004 are living in Colorado. Researchers are currently monitoring 118 lynx with active radio collars.
Of the 204 lynx released so far, it’s believed that 63 have died: 26 from the 1999 release; 24 from the 2000 release; five from the 2003 release; seven from the 2004 release; and 1 from the 2005 release. Survival rates increased dramatically once the DOW changed release procedures, allowing the animals to acclimate and fatten up in pens for at least a month prior to release.
In April 2005, the DOW released 38 lynx. Officials will decide this fall how many will be released next year.
– Missy Votel