DENVER — Colorado wildlife officials yesterday declared victory in their 11-year effort to reintroduce lynx to the state, saying the cats are reproducing faster than they’re dying, a sign of a self-sustaining population.
Colorado’s native lynx died out in the early 1970s because of trapping, poisoning, and development.
The state Division of Wildlife began reintroducing them in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado by releasing lynx that were captured in Alaska and Canada.
By 2006, 218 lynx had been brought in, equipped with tracking devices on collars, so researchers could monitor their movements. The first kittens born to the transplanted lynx were documented in 2003, and third-generation cats were first found in 2006. At least 141 have been born in Colorado, including 14 this year.
No estimate is available for the state’s total lynx population, partly because these animals live in remote wilderness areas.
The number of births varied widely, from none in 2007 and 2008 to 50 in 2005. Such wide swings are typical of lynx in Alaska and Canada. Birth rates fluctuate with the number of snowshoe hares, their primary food during the winter, researchers said.
Climate change, wildfires, the bark beetle epidemic, or other problems could still degrade or shrink lynx habit, researchers said.
Wildlife officials said they are shifting to a new, less intrusive way of monitoring the lynx. Instead of capturing and collaring them, they will use other methods, such as extracting DNA from hair found in their habitat.