Rare cat killed on Frisco road | VailDaily.com

Rare cat killed on Frisco road

Bob Berwyn
Summit County Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Susan FairweatherDr. Paul Veralli, right, and others try to rescue a lynx that was hit by a car on Highway 9 north of Breckenridge Thursday evening. The animal later died.

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado ” A band of good Samaritans did all they could to save a radio-collared lynx hit by a car on state Highway 9 Friday, but the cat died a short time later at the Frisco Animal Hospital after suffering severe injuries to its pelvis and spine.

The lynx was hit near Tiger Road, not far from a spot where a planned underpass could one day ease the way for critters trying to cross the highway.

On his way to work about 7:45 a.m., veterinarian Paul Veralli was one of the first to stop at the scene after noticing cars pulling off the side of the road and the wounded animal in the path of oncoming traffic.

“The tufts on her ears were this long,” Veralli said, shaking his head and holding his thumb and forefinger about two inches apart.

“I’ve never seen an animal that was more elegant or more beautiful … and to know it was once an inhabitant of this area,” he said.

When he first stopped, there was a young woman in the road trying to direct cars away from the wounded animal, which eventually dragged itself to the side of the road, Veralli said.

“It was in shock and couldn’t move its back legs,” he said.

Veralli called his assistants at the animal hospital to come help. He and other onlookers were able to get the lynx into a cage.

“What I noticed was how many people stopped and were willing to help,” Veralli said, adding that at least 20 people tried to aid the hurt animal.

Among those stopping was Susan Fairweather, a former firefighter who arrived just a few minutes after Veralli, and tried to control traffic. Fairweather said a number of people driving by made obscene gestures, apparently irritated by the traffic slowdown.

“I got flipped off. A couple of people who were stuck in traffic were obviously livid,” Fairweather said. “They need to go live somewhere else, because in this county, we stop and help.”

Veralli took the lynx to the animal hospital and tried to determine the extent of the injuries. X-rays showed the cat had a broken spine and smashed pelvis, he said.

Shortly after he took the X-rays, the lynx died at the animal hospital, he said.

“We see heartbreak here all the time, but it was heartbreaking to see an animal of this magnificence dying … and that we couldn’t help it,” Veralli said.

Including Friday’s death, 13 lynx have been killed by collisions with cars, and another 13 have been illegally shot since the Colorado Division of Wildlife started re-introducing the cats from Alaska and Canada.

Despite the sad ending to the rescue attempt, Veralli said he appreciated the chance to get such a close look at a lynx.

“This creature is built for action. She was lean and mean and well-muscled,” he said.

The X-rays showed fragments of bone in its stomach, suggesting the lynx had eaten recently.

“It’s sad, but there’s some good news,” said Tanya Shenk, lead biologist for the state re-introduction program.

“It’s evidence some of our missing animals are out there and doing well,” Shenk said, explaining that the cat, released in the San Juans in 2003, hadn’t been spotted since June 2004 after its transmitting collar probably malfunctioned.

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