By Advocate | August 24, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
If you’ve ever seen a Canada lynx, it’s something you never forget. There are only about 1,000 of them living in the lower 48 states. As elusive and endangered as they are, most are only seen in zoos or sanctuaries.
Though only considered a medium sized “big cat,” their thick fur and long legs make them appear much larger than they really are. Their unusually large paws act as snow shoes, important since they live in areas of very deep snow. Long ear tufts and short bobbed tails are the telltale signs you’re looking at a lynx.
Canada lynx were reintroduced into the San Juan Mountains in 1999 since their numbers were critically low. Biologists felt there was still good habitat for them to thrive there. By 2005, the Colorado Division of Wildlife had released more than 200 lynx and by last year, they announced the reintroduced population was self-sustaining. A victory!
Video: Canada Lynx
Ironically, as the lynx finally seem to be achieving success, though, forces are mounting that may drive their numbers down again. After 5 years of consideration, the US Forest Service just announced the approval of Breckenridge ski area’s controversial, 550-acre expansion plan known as Peak 6.
The proposal was designed to spread out the ski crowds and shorten lift lines at Breckenridge. With more than 1.6 million skier visits each season, Breckenridge plans to add a six-person chairlift, 143 acres of hike-to skiing, a lower fixed-grip lift, 413 acres of lift-serviced skiing, a 1,500-square foot restroom facility and a 500-square foot ski patrol building – in lynx territory.
According to the Denver Post, White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzsimmons said, “I looked at the impact to the environment related to the Peak 6 proposal and no question there are impacts. Balancing those with social benefits and opportunities with skiers … I think we were able to mitigate them to a point where it is successful.”
The Denver Post also interviewed Rocky Smith, a land conservation activist. He said that the mitigated plan looks very similar to what Breckenridge owner Vail Resorts first proposed in 2007. The Forest Service awarded Vail the acreage it requested.
“I don’t think they changed anything. It’s the same proposal. It looks just like what Vail always wanted. This proves what I’ve always suspected, that the Forest Service is just an arm of the ski industry,” said Smith. His group, Rocky Mountain Wild, is expected to file an appeal.
What seems most upsetting is that new projects are required to connect swaths of old-growth lynx habitat. However, Fitzsimmons chose to exclude this project from that federal law.
With such fragmented habitat, Colorado Parks and Wildlife researcher Jake Ivan just released telemetry data confirming that lynx are crossing I-70, a busy interstate, in order to search out new territory. He documented 80 crossings of the mountain interstate by lynx. As expected, a few lynx have been killed trying to navigate across this highway, as well as others in the area.
In Montana, the lynx face yet another obstacle to their survival. At least nine lynx have been captured in traps and four have died since the species was listed as endangered. Four conservation organizations are suing Montana claiming that trapping and snaring are killing and injuring Canada lynx, a supposedly federally-protected endangered species.
With the price of bobcat pelts selling for new record prices of $400 – $600 and with the first wolf trapping season in recent history beginning, there are more traps in the field and even more chances of Canada lynx being killed.
For these cats, it’s definitely an uphill struggle to survive and thrive in the United States.
Examiner.com by Julie Hanan August 24,2012