July 13, 2005

Colorado Has Record Number of Lynx Kittens

DENVER -- A record 46 kittens were born to transplanted lynx in Colorado this spring, and some of the mothers are settling down with the same mate year after year, giving researchers hope that a 6-year reintroduction program is paying off.

"It is another excellent lynx reproduction season," said Tanya Shenk, a researcher for the state Division of Wildlife. "We are starting to see a stable social structure evolve and family relationships become established."

Researchers found litters spread throughout the central and southern mountains this year. A total of 16 lynx had kittens, some of them for the second or third time.

Researchers found 39 newborn kittens last year and 16 in 2003.

The elusive, thick-furred mountain cats disappeared from Colorado in 1974 due to trapping, poisoning and development but are being restored with transplanted lynx from Canada.

Of the 55 kittens born in 2003 and 2004, 28 could still be alive and in Colorado, Shenk said.

Adult lynx released in Colorado are equipped with radio collars for tracking. Kittens are too small for collars, but biologists implant microchips under their skin. The microchips don't allow the cats to be tracked by radio, but they can be identified with a hand-held scanner at close range.

The lynx, a federally listed threatened species, are similar in size to bobcats, with male cats averaging 24 pounds and females averaging 20 pounds.

Unlike bobcats, lynx have long, fluffy, gray to tan hair and big, widespread paws that allow them to walk on snow.


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