Herald Staff Report
For the second time in two days, a radio-telemetry collar apparently cut from a lynx has been found in Southwest Colorado, this time on Missionary Ridge just north of Durango.
Wildlife officials speculate that someone shot the female lynx. Deer and elk hunting seasons are now in progress. No evidence of lynx remains was found.
Tanya Shenk, the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s lead lynx researcher, said the lynx, released in 2004, had given birth to three kittens in May or June 2005. Without their mother, the kittens will die, she said.
“They are just too young to make it on their own,” Shenk said.
Officials from the Colorado Division of Wildlife found the collar Thursday after it transmitted a signal the animal had died. The collar was found in snow near Missionary Ridge, about 20 miles northeast of Durango.
Another collar, also cut from a lynx, was dropped into a slot at the Silverton post office on Tuesday, about 20 miles from where the other collar was found. No other information was provided. Wildlife officials are concerned that lynx also was killed illegally. That collar was removed from a male lynx born in Southwest Colorado in 2004. The cat had been trapped and collared by the DOW last winter.
“It’s hard to say whether the two cases are connected. But we are investigating. It looks a little suspicious,” said Joe Lewandowski of the Durango DOW office.
Nine conservation groups have said they will pay $4,400 for information that leads to a conviction in the death of the animals.
“If this does indicate poaching and thoughtless behavior by some individuals, it puts the return of lynx at risk,” said Mark Pearson, executive director of Durango-based San Juan Citizens Alliance.
Conservation groups in Colorado have worked hard to ensure that the state has a healthy lynx population, said Wendy Keefover-Ring of Sinapu.
“We’re disappointed that these rogue individuals are acting so irresponsibly,”she said.
The lynx is an endangered species in Colorado and is protected as a threatened species by federal law. Lewandowski said lynx pelts and taxidermy-prepared mounted lynx are sold illegally throughout the United States.
The DOW is tracking 110 lynx that have been fitted with radio collars. Since the lynx reintroduction program started in 1999, the DOW has released 204 lynx and has recorded 101 kittens born in Colorado. Of the 204, 66 have died, with eight confirmed shooting-related deaths.