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lynx-dev LYNX in colorado
lynx-dev LYNX in colorado
Mon, 14 Jun 1999 00:14:44 -0700 (PDT)
Reintroduced lynx wander Colorado wilderness
Copyright 1999 Nando Media
Copyright 1999 Associated Press
By ROBERT WELLER
CREEDE, Colo. (June 12, 1999 7:43 a.m. EDT
http://www.nandotimes.com) - After an hour skimming the 14,000-foot
peaks of the San Juan Mountains, pilot Whitey Wannemacher wondered
aloud in his small plane: "Where is everybody today?"
On this six-hour mission to track the 37 lynx transplanted here from
Canada and Alaska, research assistant Chris Parmeter heard only four
telltale tracking beeps, grabbing his clipboard each time to note an
animal's location and number.
In ways, the silence can be heartening, telling the state Division
of Wildlife workers that the reintroduction of the lynx to the
mountain wilderness could be paying off with the elusive cats
dispersing and adapting to their new homes. Faster beeps would
signal a cat had succumbed.
"If they were dead," Wannemacher said, "we'd find them in a
Since the controversial reintroduction program began in January,
trackers have spotted lynx as far as 70 miles from release sites in
southwestern Colorado. Four of the first five cats starved to death,
but no dead animals have been found since early April.
The deaths prompted opponents to argue for the program's suspension,
something wildlife officials say they will consider if half the lynx
die. In the meantime, they hope to release an additional 50 cats
Lynx were last spotted in Colorado at Vail in 1973. Weighing up to
44 pounds and adept at swimming and tree climbing, their distinctive
black-tufted ears, short head and large paws distinguish them from
the bobcat, a relative.
The trapping and poisoning that contributed to the animals' demise
in Colorado have been outlawed, but development at the state's
majestic ski areas continues. The question remains whether the cat
can exist with resort growth and the proliferation of second homes
in Colorado's high country.
Activists have held vigils and accused state biologists of rushing
to release the lynx to avoid federal protection that might interfere
with development plans. An eco-terrorist group claimed it set a fire
last year that caused $12 million damage at Vail to protest the
resort's expansion. No arrests have been made.
But Mike Smith, wildlife chairman for the Sierra Club's Colorado
chapter, defends the state biologists. "I think the division
deserves a lot more credit and a lot less hammering," he said.
The biologists say they knew from the start there would be losses.
"We said the mortality could be 50 percent," said Todd Malmsbury, a
Division of Wildlife spokesman. Just as many lynx can starve during
some winters, he said.
The lynx has joined a number of other species that have been
reintroduced to the wild throughout the West, including condors,
grizzly bears and wolves.
Ranchers and farmers have been among those opposed to
reintroductions, fearing they could bring more federal restrictions
onto their land. A group of ranchers failed in court to halt
Colorado's lynx program.
Reintroduction opponents have found common cause with animal rights
groups, which said the lynx program was hastily planned and that the
deaths were unnecessary.
"Some people who really are upset cannot accept the loss of an
individual animal," said Diane Gansauer, executive director of the
Colorado Wildlife Federation. "We have a generation raised to
believe all is sweetness and light in the bush. Nature's way is
also very tough."
Smith, of the Sierra Club, said it is too early to tell whether the
program will succeed. But he believes it's worth the risk, even if
some lynx die.
"Wildlife is a part of our quality of life," Smith said. "If I only
see lynx tracks in the snow from time to time, it's very important
me to know they are in Colorado."
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