Summit lynx killed near Heeney, poaching suspected

Poaching is suspected in the death of 13-year-old female lynx that had been living in Summit County near Cataract Lake.

State biologists seeking information on local lynx death

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — One of Colorado’s longest-lived lynx was killed recently and the Colorado Division of Wildlife is looking for information on what is believed to be a case of illegal poaching.

The 13-year-old female was released in Colorado in 1999 as one of the very first lynx in the state’s effort to create a self-sustaining population of the wild powder-loving cats. She had been living high above Cataract Lake at the north end of Summit County recently and was last seen alive Jan. 16 along Heeney Road.

State biologists said they had tracked the cat around the state for years as it often moved between the Vail Pass area and Rocky Mountain National Park. All the cats that were released as part of the re-introduction program were wearing collars with transmission devices. The signal alerts researchers when the animals stop moving for an unnatural period of time.

It had recently been living above Cataract Lake and was last seen along the Heeney Road on the afternoon of Saturday, January 16th.

A mortality signal from the radio collar that the lynx was wearing was received on January 18th. DOW personnel later recovered the collar; however the carcass of the lynx was missing. DOW officers determined from evidence found in the area that the lynx was likely killed near that location and the collar removed.
The Division of Wildlife has posted fliers around the area asking for information. Call Sean Shepherd at (970) 725-6200, or operation Game Thief at 1 (877) 265-6648.

Human-caused mortality, including poaching and vehicle collisions, is one of the leading causes of lynx deaths in the state.

A total of 218 lynx were transplanted from Canada and Alaska between 1999 and 2006. According to a May 2009 report from the Colorado Division of Wildlife, researchers have documented 155 known mortalities.

From the investigations into the deaths, researchers say 43 of the mortalities are from unknown causes. Sixteen lynx have been shot (another five are listed as probable shooting deaths) Fourteen have been killed by cars, including one on Highway 9 between Frisco and Breckenridge.  Eleven died of starvation, mostly during the early years of the program before the Division revamped its release procedures. Eight died from “other trauma,” seven died of plague and five died from predation by other animals (three additional predation deaths suspected).

Click here to see the full 2009 report in an online pdf document.

Click here for a story about the legal status of protection for lynx in New Mexico.

Click here to read about lynx at Vail Pass.

This story is about how lynx conservation affects management of trails on public lands.


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