Monthly Archives: May 2007

Lynx kitten count begins

Lynx chasing a mouseSUMMIT COUNTY – A handful of Colorado Division of Wildlife teams will be fanning out across the San Juans during the next few weeks to try and count newborn lynx kittens, an endangered cat often threatened by development.

“A lot of people will be eager to see what reproduction is like this year,” said Division of Wildlife (CDOW) spokesman Joe Lewandowski. In the spring of 2006, the reproduction rate dropped significantly from the previous two years, he said, adding that researchers are curious to see if those numbers bounce back this spring.

Last year, biologists found four dens with 11 kittens. Only 10 percent of tracked females were found with litters in 2006, down from 41 percent in 2005. Between 2003 and 2006, researchers found a total of 37 dens.

Some speculated that the continued releases of new lynx in the San Juans may have disrupted existing social networks among the rare cats, listed by the state and federally as an endangered species. As a result, CDOW curtailed releases this year. The spring of 2007 marked the first time since 1999 that no new lynx were released into the wilds of Colorado.

The agency hasn’t decided if it will resume releases in 2008.

Between 1999 and 2006, the wildlife agency transplanted a total of 218 lynx from Canada and Alaska to the San Juans. As of a year ago, CDOW was actively tracking 95 of the 138 lynx that were still thought to be alive. Biologists know that 80 of those cats have died. A third of those deaths were attributed to human causes, including vehicle collisions and gunshots, while malnutrition and disease accounted for about 21 percent of the deaths.

Since all the lynx that were released are wearing transmitters, the agency is able to determine when they stop roaming and retreat to a den. Based on that information, ground crews are sent in to check the dens for kittens.

Most of the lynx have remained in the core area, from the New Mexico border north to Gunnison, west to Taylor Mesa and east to Monarch Pass. A secondary core population exists in the Collegiate Peaks/Taylor Park area. Some of the lynx have wandered as far as Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Kansas and South Dakota.

Some of those cats were recaptured and re-released in the San Juans, Lewandowski said.

Mature Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir forest stands were the areas most frequently used by lynx in southwest Colorado.

Local lynx?
No lynx dens have yet been located on the White River National Forest or in Summit County. But the local area is an important north-south crossroads and a crucial link if the cats are to spread back into their historic range across all of Colorado’s mountains. So far, 43 lynx have been located in the White River National Forest, according to a CDOW report issued last year.

“Lynx use the entire area between Bakerville (east of the Eisenhower Tunnel) to Vail Pass to go from the southern part of the state to the north,” said CDOW’s Rick Kahn, coordinator the lynx program.

The increasing number of lynx using the White River National Forest doesn’t surprise White River forest biologist Keith Gietzentanner.

“The majority of the forest is pretty good lynx habitat,” Gietzentanner said in a previous interview, explaining that the rugged mountains of the forest have plenty of the terrain favored by the cats – steep, high altitude north-facing slopes with plenty of downed timber for cover and forest patches of varied ages, where there is food and habitat for snowshoe hares, a mainstay of the lynx diet.

Gietzentanner said some lynx may even be setting up territories on or near the White River, especially south and east of Aspen and south of Vail in a triangular area roughly bounded by Vail, Tennessee Pass and Copper Mountain. That patch of forested mountains was described by Gietzentanner and other federal biologists as a “secondary core area” and “study area” for lynx, outside the immediate release zone in the San Juans, where many of the transplanted cats have settled.

Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at

Click here for the original article at


Rocky Mountain National Park to release elk reduction strategy this summer

Cavity nesting bird(AP) — The elk whose mating rituals draw thousands of visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park each fall are in the cross hairs — literally — because there are too many of them.

The problem is the elk have altered the park’s ecosystem by eating aspens and willows into near oblivion, wiping out habitat for beavers and birds. They also amble through the yards and gardens of homes outside the park, increasing chances for conflicts with people.

But the park’s recommended solution — using sharpshooters to cull the herd at night — has stirred opposition from hunters, environmentalists and even members of Congress. A final plan is due this summer.

Biologists estimate there were from 2,200 to 3,000 elk in the park and surrounding valley. The numbers have fluctuated, dropping recently to 1,700 to 2,200 as some elk have moved farther east, possibly because of drought followed by rough winters. The goal is a population of 1,200 to 1,700.

Park biologist Therese Johnson said the area’s elk densities — up to 285 per square mile in some prime winter range — are the highest recorded for a free-ranging herd in the Rockies.

North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park faces a similar dilemma, where the public is pressuring park managers to enlist hunters rather than taxpayer-funded shooters to reduce the elk herd. An exception is Grand Teton National Park in northwestern Wyoming. The 1950 law that approved the park allowed hunting to help keep down elk numbers because of the area’s limited winter range.

Rocky Mountain National Park officials said involving hunters was discussed to control the herd but wasn’t among the options in a preliminary plan released last year because of legal hurdles. A 1929 law bans hunting in the park. Development has limited hunting outside park boundaries.

“There are also 90 years of expectations that visitors can recreate here and not be displaced by hunters,” park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson said.

The option backed by park officials in a draft 20-year elk management plan calls for contractors or federal employees to shoot between 200 and 700 elk annually in the first four years and 25 to 150 each year after that.

Park officials recommended that the shooting be done at night with guns equipped with silencers and night-vision scopes to keep the culling out of public view. The program’s cost was estimated at $18 million, although Patterson said it likely will be lower in the final document. The cost includes research, monitoring and fencing to protect vegetation from overgrazing.

Other alternatives in the plan include elk birth control and releasing a limited number of wolves in the park. Biologist Johnson said the wolves’ biggest benefit would be keeping the elk on the run so they wouldn’t graze too much in one spot.

More than 100 years ago, there were no elk in the park. They were eliminated late in the 19th century by unregulated hunting.

An Estes Park civic club rallied a couple years before the park was created in 1915 to restore elk to the area by relocating them from other areas. With wolves wiped out by hunting and government extermination, elk flourished. The park controlled the size of the herd by moving some elk to other areas and culling by federal and state wildlife officers.

The herd started expanding in the late 1960s when National Park Service philosophy began relying on natural processes — predators, weather, hunting outside parks — to manage wildlife.

Environmentalists see the restoration of wolves to the area as the best answer and one that has worked in Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone’s elk herd grew largely unchecked in part because of the loss of most predators. That changed when wolves were released there in 1995.

“The Park Service has a mandate to restore and protect natural ecological processes,” said Rob Edward of Sinapu, a Boulder-based group that advocates restoration of wolves in the southern Rockies.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife has its own preference: using licensed hunters rather than federal employees or contractors to shoot the elk. State officials say hunters would do it for free and use the meat.

The idea also has gained bipartisan support in Congress. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., and Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., have sponsored bills authorizing the two parks in their states to allow hunters to thin elk herds.

By Judith Kohler, Associated Press (click here for original article).

DOW Urges: Be Mindful of Mountain Lions

As campers, hikers and wildlife enthusiasts get ready to dust off their gear and head into the wild, the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) is reminding everyone that we live in mountain lion country. Living in lion country can mean different things to different people—some residents live in mountain lion habitat and some people just recreate there; either way, it’s important for people to be aware and know the basics.

Around the home:
-It is against the law to feed deer or other wildlife in Colorado. Attracting deer to your neighborhood increases the likelihood that mountain lions will follow because deer are a lion’s main food source.
-Closely supervise children when they play outdoors especially around dawn and dusk when lions are most active.
-Make a lot of noise when coming and going, especially from dusk until dawn.
-Turn on outside lights before stepping outside. Continue reading

Boulder Cares about Lions and Bears: A week of fun, educational events!

Sinapu will sponsor the following (free) events:


Children’s Art Exhibit Saturday May 19, 2:00-4:00 pm, at the Dairy Center for the Arts. We celebrate Boulder County’s youngest artists, grade schoolers who have depicted mountain lions and bears. Linda Masterson, author of Living with Bears, will speak to the public at 3pm, with a focus on a child audience, about black bears. Oso, a live (human-costumed) bear will appear. Free refreshments. Please RSVP.

Bear Nature Hike, Sunday, May 20, 9:30am to 12pm, gather at the Chautauqua shelter (behind the Auditorium). Bear biologist Darrin Masters will lead a short and gentle nature hike that is suitable for children. Come and learn about our local black bears and their habitat during a fun, hands-on event. Please RSVP.


Black Bear Experts Speak, May 23, Wednesday- 6:30-8:00 pm, Chautauqua Community House. Spend an evening with two black bear experts and their amazing photos by Darrin Masters, bear biologist, and Linda Masterson, author of Living with Bears. The book will be available for purchase and signing by Linda. Learn about the natural history of black bears, their ecological role, and how to co-exist with bruins. Free refreshments. Please RSVP.

“The Trail of the Cougar” PBS Nature film, Thursday, May 24, 6:30pm-8:30pm, Boulder Creek Room at the Boulder Public Library. Wendy Keefover-Ring, Sinapu’s director of carnivore protection, will facilitate a discussion after the film. Please RSVP.

Boulder Creek Festival, May 26-28. The Sinapu booth will feature Oso, a live (human-costumed) bear. Sinapu will distribute literature and information on bears, lions, and other wildlife. Citizens can sign Sinapu’s “Bear Aware” and “Mountain Lion Smart Citizen” pledges and get a free sticker or button.

If you have questions, or to RSVP or volunteer for events, please contact Ms. Billie Gutgsell at 303.447.8655, Ext. 0# or

View Mountain Lion Brochure

View Black Bear Brochure


County seeks removal of wolf as precaution

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Catron County Manager Bill Aymar says officials only want to prevent problems by asking the federal government to remove a pregnant female Mexican gray wolf released on the county’s border after it killed two cows elsewhere.

But Victoria Fox, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says the agency has no reason to remove the wolf.

The dispute over the animal — designated F924 — began as soon as it was released April 25 in southwestern New Mexico.

The next day, the county demanded it be removed as an “imminent danger.” Fish and Wildlife rejected the demand last week.

The county has threatened to invoke an ordinance, passed in February, in which the county claims the right to remove wolves that are accustomed to humans or have a high probability of harming children or other defenseless people, physically or psychologically.

Read the entire Associated Press story by clicking here.

Conservationists Request Suspension of Mexican Wolf-Killing “Predator Control” Policy

SILVER CITY, N.M.— The Center for Biological Diversity, Forest Guardians, Sinapu and twenty-six other conservation, animal protection and educational organizations, including participants in the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan, sent a letter to the southwestern regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today requesting suspension of the Mexican gray wolf predator-control protocol known as “SOP 13.” The 29 signatories to the letter range from the Upper Gila Watershed Alliance of Gila, New Mexico, a local group in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, to the 10-million-strong Humane Society of the United States, as well as prominent scientists from both sides of the United States-Mexico border and facilities that breed the endangered wolves.

Wolf tracksThe policy the groups are protesting, SOP 13, was formally adopted by the interagency Mexican Wolf Adaptive Management Oversight Committee in late 2005 but had served as unofficial policy for more than a year before that. It prescribes the punishments wolves receive for preying on livestock and has led to the killings and incarceration of many endangered Mexican gray wolves.

The Species Survival Plan is a network of private facilities that cooperate in the captive breeding of Mexican wolves. It is this pool of captive wolves that staved off extinction after the last-known wild lobo was trapped alive in Mexico in 1980, and enables the current reintroduction program to exist and to continue to release wolves into the wild. The plan works to maximize the genetic diversity in the population that consists of descendants of just seven wolves, the last of their species. Without genetic diversity the animals can suffer the effects of genetic drift and inbreeding depression, with declining reproductive success and greater unfitness for long-term survival. The nonprofit groups’ collaborative, conscientious management of Mexican wolf genetic integrity has not been reciprocated in the government trapping and killing (including 20 accidental deaths) of wolves to placate livestock owners. Continue reading

Colorado–First to Require Mandatory Mountain Lion Hunter Education!

puma cubOn May 3rd, the Colorado Wildlife Commission unanimously approved mandatory mountain lion hunter education!

The Colorado Division of Wildlife’s online education course requires that hunters know how to distinguish between the sexes in order to save the breeding females and also to prevent the orphaning of kittens. It also emphasizes state regulations concerning lion hunting.

All lion hunters must take the course before they can purchase a lion-hunting license.

This decision point is the result of our five-year campaign. In 2002, Sinapu first petitioned the commission asking for substantive changes concerning how lions are managed.

We couldn’t have done this without the Colorado Outfitters Association. Strange bedfellows! But by working together we came to this excellent result. The hope is that other states will also adopt this online program for mountain lion conservation.

Take the course: Colorado Division of Wildlife mountain lion education.DOW Puma Edu Course

Learn more about the decision:

Grand Junction Sentinel

Associated Press

Rocky Mountain News

Cortez Journal