With its short tail, long legs, large paws and tufted ears, the Canada lynx is an awe-inspiring wild cat. Yet lynx, native to Colorado’s high country, were extirpated from the state by the early 1970s. Colorado is the southern-most portion of their natural range. Today, a successful effort to restore the lynx is underway in Colorado.
In 1999, the Colorado Division of Wildlife released 41 lynx from Canada into the wild San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. Between 2000 and 2004, state wildlife managers released additional lynx, bringing the total number of reintroduced lynx to 167. The Colorado Division of Wildlife plans to release another 50 lynx into the recovery area in spring 2005 and 15 more in 2006 and 2007.
Sinapu supported the state’s program to restore lynx to Colorado, an effort launched in 1999. Since state wildlife managers first began repatriating lynx to Colorado, Sinapu has led the charge to protect the program from mismanagement and legal challenges from radical “property rights” groups.
When political maneuvering threatened to eliminate funding for the lynx reintroduction program, Sinapu rose to the challenge. Leading a diverse coalition of wildlife advocates, we launched a multi-faceted campaign that resulted in the Wildlife Commission receiving hundreds of letters in support of continuing the lynx recovery program. Today, we’re challenging both Wildlife Services and the Forest Service for failing to provide adequate protections for lynx migrating from Colorado into New Mexico. Sinapu’s no-nonsense advocacy efforts, public education work, and litigation to protect the lynx are paying off.
Although making progress in Colorado, lynx still face significant threats. For these reclusive cats, public enemy number one is development and human intrusion into their habitat (oil & gas drilling, ski area expansions, logging, and home-building in mountain areas). Further, lynx also face risks from illegal hunting and trapping.
The people of Colorado and the Colorado Division of Wildlife have much to be proud of in this effort to return these reclusive cats to their ancestral hunting grounds in Colorado. Wildlife biologists and conservationists are cautiously optimistic about the future of the lynx. As of summer 2004, more than 100 lynx roam Colorado and at least 46 kittens have been born in the state. Determined to build upon this success, Sinapu will continue to give a voice to Colorado’s wild lynx for generations to come.