Lynx Reintroduction: Notes from the field
Conservation Northwest / Feb 23, 2022 / British Columbia, Lynx, Restoring Wildlife
By Dave Werntz, Conservation Northwest Science and Conservation Director
A common adage is that if you take a job you love, you will never work another day in your life. My first week of February brought that home.
I had the privilege of spending that week playing in the snow and chasing Canada lynx with a team of committed trappers and wildlife biologists from the Colville Confederated Tribes and the Okanagan Nation Alliance. These are our partners in an effort to restore a healthy lynx population to the Colville Indian Reservation at the southern end of the Kettle River Range in northeast Washington.
It has been more than 40 years since lynx were nearly extirpated by trapping in the Kettles. Our effort aims to reverse that mistake by giving the lynx a lift, one at a time, 10 per year for five years. This winter was our first, and we have already caught and released nine healthy, beautiful lynx.
We were stationed in British Columbia, just east of the city of Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley. We spent our days on snowmobiles and snowshoes, digging out, setting up, scenting, and then checking about twenty traps set in promising locations along traplines several miles long. The area is remarkably rich in wildlife, with lynx and hare tracks all over the place. One big cat slept right outside one of the traps, leaving a depression in the snow and in my mood. We saw tracks of grizzly bear and moose in this area, and others heard wolves nearby when we first came up last November.
We caught a big male on my first day on the line in January! We quickly weighed, measured, assessed his health, and collared him, checking vitals all the while. After a vet check outside of town, he headed south in a kennel to the release site. It is inspiring to work with such a unique, dedicated field team and immerse in comradery on a mission for wildlife.
Dave Werntz, Conservation Northwest Science and Conservation Director, leads our Forest Field Program with a focus on national forests and forest collaboration. He also manages numerous other conservation initiatives, including Fisher Reintroduction, Canada lynx and wolverine recovery work, and representation on the state’s Wildlife Diversity Advisory Council and Washington Prescribed Fire Council.