Tracking skiers, snowmobilers could help lynx study

In a turnabout in the use of radio collars to track wildlife, researchers from the U.S. Forest Service plan to use similar technology to follow two-legged recreationists.

The Summit Daily News this week reported that Forest Service researchers are asking cross-country skiers and snowmobilers using the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area to wear Global Positioning System units.

Information from the human-carried Global Positioning System units will be compared with similar data collected from GPS units worn by lynx.

The data may lead to some idea of how recreational use in the area is affecting lynx activity.

One of Colorado’s most elusive mammals, lynx were thought to be extinct in Colorado by 1973. A total of 218 lynx have been reintroduced to the state during a program begun in 1999.

Since then, 126 lynx kittens are known to have been born in Colorado: 16 kittens in 2003, 39 kittens in 2004, 50 kittens in 2005, 11 kittens in 2006 and 10 kittens in 2009.

“We are very close to achieving all of our goals for the lynx reintroduction,” said Rick Kahn of the Division of Wildlife. “We have had successful breeding, and we have had Colorado-born lynx reproduce. Our next goal is to determine if our level of recruitment is exceeding our mortality rates over a couple of years.”

Division of Wildlife researchers are monitoring 49 lynx with active radio collars, said Tanya Shenk, DOW lynx field researcher. She said a large percentage of the original collars have stopped functioning, and the vast majority of kittens born in Colorado have not been fitted with transmitters.

The number of recreational users of the Vail Pass area is down this year, according to the Forest Service. Recently, a lack of snow has caused the closure of several seasonal roads.

The roads will remain closed until enough snow covers the roads to prevent resource damage, the Forest Service said.


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