Canada lynx were introduced to Colorado in 1999.
Nearly 20 years ago, Colorado Parks and Wildlife launched what was to become one of the most ambitious and high-profile wildlife reintroductions in state history. Known as the Colorado Lynx Reintroduction Program, CPW set out to re-establish wild lynx—a species which was extirpated (no longer found in Colorado) by the late 1970s.
Because of Colorado's isolation to the nearest lynx populations in Montana and northern Wyoming, reintroduction seemed to be the only viable option to return lynx to Colorado. So in 1999, cats captured in Canada and Alaska were released into the remote San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado. In a seven-year period, we introduced 218 of the Canuck cats, monitoring radio- and satellite-collared lynx as they slowly established breeding populations in the San Juans and expanded their range into Summit County and other parts of Colorado's high country.
Based on breeding surveys, monitoring results, and completion of the program's original goals, CPW declared the Lynx reintroduction a success in 2010. Today, an estimated 150-250 of the tufted-eared cats now roam Colorado's backcountry.
About the Lynx
Large, bob-tailed cat
Three feet long
Black-tipped tail is about one-eighth the total length, and only about half the length of its huge hind foot
Weight varies from 20 to 30 pounds
Coat is grayish with obscure spots
Magnificent ear tufts may be nearly as long as the actual ears!
The lynx is easily confused with its more common and more widespread relative, the bobcat. However, they have a few obvious differences:
Size: The lynx is slightly larger than the bobcat. The lynx’s tail is relatively shorter and its hind foot is much longer (greater than 8 inches, versus less than eight inches in the bobcat).
Coloring: Lynx have grayish fur and less prominent spots, while bobcats have reddish fur.
Ear Tuft: Only lynx flaunt a conspicuous ear tuft.
Tail: Lynx's tails have a solid black tip, while bobcats' tails have a black tip broken with a reddish band.
Lynx in Colorado
The lynx lives in North America and Eurasia. Lynx may have disappeared from Colorado by about 1973. Sightings prior to that time were few, scattered throughout mountainous areas of the state. In 1999, an ambitious program of lynx restoration began in the remote San Juan Mountains. By 2005, more than 200 animals had been released, a number of litters of kittens had been born, and lynx were expanding throughout the high country and occasionally beyond.
Habitat and Behavior
The lynx is found in dense subalpine forest and willow-choked corridors along mountain streams and avalanche chutes, the home of its favored prey, the snowshoe hare.
For the lynx, the typical hunting strategy is patience, stalking prey or crouching in wait beside a trail. Often the surprised quarry is overtaken and dispatched in a single furious bound. Lynx also eat some carrion, and capture ground-dwelling birds (like grouse) and small mammals. Lynx are active throughout the year; their huge hind feet help them move across heavy snow.
Lynx breed in late winter, and after a gestation period of about nine weeks, females produce a litter of about four kittens in April or May.
Lynx Prints Benefit Wildlife Society & Scholarship Fund
“Silent Predator”, a limited edition print by well-known wildlife artist Edward Aldrich, is available for sale. The print was commissioned by the Colorado Chapter of The Wildlife Society. 50% of profits from sales of the lynx print will go toward the Jim Olterman Memorial Scholarship Fund, with the remainder of profits supporting general operations of the Colorado Chapter of The Wildlife Society.
Jim Olterman was a biologist with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife for 30 years. He died when the plane he was flying crashed while flying fish into a high mountain lake.
The Fund is used to support the Jim Olterman Scholarship Award, which is given annually to an outstanding upper-class undergraduate student majoring in wildlife biology or a closely related major. The recipient receives a $500 scholarship and plaque, and the recipient’s name is placed on a traveling plaque that resides at the individual’s college or university. The print measures 29" x 23" and sells for $75 (plus $7 for S+H). Artist proofs are also available for $100 (while supplies last). Please fill out and mail in an order form (pdf file) along with a check or money order, or call Marty Stratman at 970-842-6314.
Note cards are also for sale at $1.00 per card plus shipping.
How to Help
Donate to Colorado wildlife through the Wildlife Heritage Foundation. Their mission is to ensure a wildlife legacy for Colorado today and tomorrow by securing and managing funds for wildlife.
Thanks for your interest in Colorado's wildlife!