Help sought for study of human-lynx interactions

Posted: Tuesday, January 19, 2010

DENVER - The U.S. Forest Service is looking for snowmobilers and others using the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area to wear tracking devices to see if they cross paths with lynx.

The White River National Forest in central Colorado wants to see if the cats' use of the area overlaps with people and how the cats respond to the activity.

Lynx are listed as threatened in the lower 48 states. The state Division of Wildlife has released more than 200 of the long-haired cats from Canada and Alaska in southwest Colorado since 1999 to restore them to the state.

Lynx are native to Colorado but were wiped out by 1973 by trapping, poisoning and development.

Forest Service spokesman Patrick Thrasher said Friday that lynx and lynx tracks have been seen in the Vail Pass area.

"Lynx are very rare and secretive, and we don't understand how they respond to winter recreation," said John Squires, a wildlife biologist with the Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula, Mont.

On selected days, cross-country skiers and others will be asked to carry GPS devices while in the recreation area. Their routes will be compared with data from radio-collared lynx.

Lynx are generally found in high-elevation forests. They prefer deep, soft snow and eat mostly snowshoe hares in the winter.

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