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Learning more about lynx

Posted by Joe Scott at Mar 29, 2010 11:10 AM |

For someone with a juvenile sense of humor like myself, there is always some amusement to be found in most situations. And after two days and 120 clicks on snow machines in the Loomis forest, I was starting to think the highlight would be Department of Natural Resources biologist Scott Fisher’s rear end sticking out of a chicken wire trap meant for a 20-lb lynx.

Learning more about lynx

Joe and The Girlfriend (whose name is Tanja, by the way ~ed.) helped check traps for lynx as part of an important study in the Okanogan. Photo by Scott Fisher

For someone with a juvenile sense of humor like myself, there is always some amusement to be found in most situations. And after two days and 120 clicks on snowmobiles in the Loomis forest, I was starting to think the highlight would be Department of Natural Resources biologist Scott Fisher’s butt sticking out of a  trap of chicken wire meant for a 20 pound lynx. Admittedly, the beers we shared after the trip are nothing to sneeze at either. 

The Girlfriend and I were out with Scott and WA Department of Fish & Wildlife biologist Gary Bell on their daily check of more than 30 painstakingly homemade traps strung throughout the Loomis to temporarily capture the elusive cats – so they can spy on them! 

But as luck would have it, in the last trap on 2nd day, there was the sought after apparition, whose only sign of existence is usually a ghostly set of tracks in the snow. Lolo, a male lynx who had already been trapped 4 times apparently has made the calculation that a couple hours in a PVC cage is worth an all-you-can-eat venison road-kill barbecue. As we humans approached, he sat crouched, yellow eyes glowering and uttering an otherworldly “growl” – sort of like a really angry, giant alley cat with a toothache.

Pictures certainly don't do lynx justice, but maybe this cool video of lynx in the BC Okanogan will help. In my years of wandering through the Northwest’s forests, I’d never seen one – but then few people have. And it’s obvious that this is an animal supremely adapted to snow and cold, with a big furry ruff around its head and dense fur that cries out to be petted.

But what really stand out are its feet. These are dogs, dude! They look like they would suit an animal 3 times the size of this 24 lb wild cat. But they are appropriate to the task – you need big furry feet to run down a snowshoe hare, AKA prime rib for lynx, on a meter of snow. 

The lynx trapping project is a collaboration of DNR, DFW, US Forest Service, and US Fish and Wildlife Service to better understand the status of the lynx population in the Okanogan and how the cats are using the habitat. When the lynx are trapped biologists fit them with a satellite collar that records the cat’s wanderings over several months. So the biologists not only know where they go, but for how long. 

Sometimes however, a collared cat drops off the radar screen. One such animal, Calvin was shot by a hound hunter in British Columbia, a couple hundred kilometers from where he was trapped in the Loomis. BC wildlife officials sent the collar back to Washington wildlife officials. Tragically, BC still allows lynx hunting and trapping even though the animals are protected in the US under the Endangered Species Act.

Stay tuned to this dial. Next week we’ll post a blog about the last week in the 2009-10 lynx trapping season (live trapping, of course).

[Learn more about lynx]

 3/29 Editors note: Mea culpa: Through a miscommunication, I assumed this video was from Joe's trip. It isn't; it's a video found randomly on the web. But still pretty darn cool! Here is the note from the videographer, James Shalman, the GM of Apex Mountain Resort, "It was shot at Apex Mountain Resort on one of our ski runs (the lynx was very complacent with people) he has been living on our mountain for years."
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