Colorado-born lynx gives birth for first time
DENVER ” A lynx born in Colorado has given birth to two kittens, a major milestone in the state’s ambitious attempt to reintroduce the elusive cats, researchers said Tuesday.
It was the first documented case of a Colorado-born lynx giving birth since the reintroduction program began in 1999. The cat, born in 2004, gave birth to two males in mid-June.
The news was tempered, however, by a dramatic reduction in the number of births this year. Colorado Division of Wildlife researchers found four dens with a total of 11 kittens, down from 18 dens with 50 kittens last year.
Biologists are puzzled by the decline and studying possible reasons, the agency said in a press release.
Division of Wildlife biologist Rick Kahn, head of the lynx program, said researchers believe adult lynx brought to Colorado as part of the reintroduction process may be disrupting breeding.
Researchers believe other kittens were born but not counted this year because their mothers do not have radio collars and cannot be tracked.
The animals’ death rate hasn’t increased, and most of the cats are staying in established territories, Kahn said.
Lynx, designated an endangered species by Colorado, were wiped out in the state by 1973, victims of trapping, poisoning and development.
A total of 218 lynx from Canada and Alaska have been released in southwestern Colorado since 1999, and at least 78 are confirmed dead. More than 80 births have been documented since 2003, and researchers believe the total number of lynx in the state is holding steady at about 200.
Kahn said no additional lynx will be released in Colorado next spring because of the decline in births.
“Given the high number of lynx currently out there we want to give them an opportunity to settle down and establish a stable social structure,” he said.
The agency will assess the need for further releases and make recommendations to the Colorado Wildlife Commission, which oversees the division, next year.
Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado
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