On Nov. 5, the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW), in partnership with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR), trapped a Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) south of the town of Emery in Emery County, Utah.
A lynx resembles a bobcat, but a lynx has larger paws, longer legs and a uniform grayish brown pelage with a completely black-tipped tail. The species' preferred habitat is alpine forest, but some use other habitats, especially in the arid West. Its range has diminished since European settlement, and the species is currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
In 1998, the CDOW hoped to return this species to Colorado and initiated a lynx reintroduction project. Since then, more than 150 cats have been transplanted from Canada to the high country of Colorado. All of the lynx that are released are equipped with radio transmitters that allow biologists to track their movements via satellite. Some of the kittens born in the wild in Colorado now roam without radio collars, however.
A few of the radio-collared lynx have wandered far and wide, and Utah has been visited by at least three lynx in 2004 alone. One of these lynx remains in Utah in a secluded, snowy alpine area. An additional three have made short forays into Utah in previous years. Utah's mountains have been known to support lynx historically, so other lynx may inhabit the state.
The lynx trapped Nov. 5 in Emery County was a sub-adult male, weighing 23 pounds. He took up temporary residence in a desert wash adjacent to alfalfa fields and occupied an area frequented by bobcats. This concerned the UDWR, since Utah's bobcat trapping and hunting season opens Nov. 17.
Lynx typically inhabit high alpine areas, from which trappers are excluded due to deep snow. Wanting to prevent injury to the lynx, and to protect trappers from accidentally trapping a threatened species, the UDWR notified the CDOW and asked them to take the cat home.
With the assistance of UDWR biologists, researchers from CDOW set live traps around the animal's general location. A variety of scent and visual attractants were used to stimulate the cat's natural curiosity. Once at the trap, the lynx was baited inside with a carnivore diet mix used at zoos.
The following morning, researchers checked their traps and found they had captured the lynx. After sedating the animal, researchers removed him from the trap and inspected him for possible injuries. After determining he was in good health, they placed him in a pet carrier for his ride back to the high mountains of Colorado.