Seven more Canada lynx introduced to endangered Washington population

Seven more Canada lynx introduced to endangered Washington population

Conservation Northwest / Dec 22, 2023 / Lynx

Seven Canada lynx were recently trapped in British Columbia and relocated to the Colville Indian Reservation (CIR) in an effort to help recover the species in Washington state.

A team of biologists, technicians, trappers, vets, and other volunteers set up traps east of Kelowna, B.C. at the beginning of October. Each trap had a game camera to record the activity and allowed team members to monitor a lynx when one was captured.

“We are in year three and one of the issues with trapping early in the fall is that the bears have not entered hibernation,” said Rose Piccinini, wildlife biologist for Colville Tribes Fish and Wildlife (CTFW). “Because of this, we use scents and visual aids rather than meat or carcasses as bait. Feathers, pieces of deer hide, and other visual attractants are used to bring in curious cats.”

The team trapped four males and three females as of mid-December and the group may be trapping additional Canada lynx in January. They were able to do this by setting up about 72 traps. “The traps were checked daily and re-scented or baited every other day,” said Sam Rushing, wildlife biologist for CTFW. Those involved were the BC trappers who own the trap lines, Conservation Northwest staff, our staff, and several other volunteers.”

“When we get a lynx in a trap we transfer the cat to a kennel and it’s moved to an overnight holding facility,” said Piccinini. “The lynx is isolated in a quiet and calm area to help reduce stress. Once under anesthesia, each lynx is weighed, checked for overall health and body condition, sexed, and aged,” she said. “The cat’s vitals are monitored throughout the entire process while they are photographed, receive an ear tag, get fit with a GPS collar, and have their DNA collected.”

Lynx are listed as a federally threatened species in Washington state but not in Canada. So in Canada, it is legal to trap them. Multiple permits were required to transport the animals across the border.

“It takes approximately two hours from the lynx trapping house to the border and another two hours from the border to the release site,” said Marcus McClung, wildlife biologist for CTFW. “The lynx were given food and water to prepare them for relocation before they leave to cross the border. They are awake because they were trapped and processed the day before.”

The Colville Confederated Tribes partnered with Conservation Northwest, Upper Columbia United Tribes (UCUT), Okanagan Nation Alliance, and others with the goal of relocating at least 50 Canada lynx to the reservation in five years.

“We’re about halfway toward our goal of releasing 50 lynx on Colville lands in the Kettle Range,” said Dave Werntz, Conservation Northwest science and conservation senior director. “Most remain in the Kettles, and from the handful that have traveled north (some south again) we’ve learned a ton about connectivity pathways to other lynx populations.”

The Kettle Range had a significant lynx presence through the 1980s before they were trapped out. National lynx experts have identified the Kettle Range as one of seven priority recovery areas due to habitat connectivity with British Columbia, great snow, and snowshoe hare, a key food staple. “A feasibility study commissioned by Conservation Northwest determined that the Kettle Range could support a small lynx population of 12 to 40 lynx, depending on home range size. The monitoring data collected by the Colville Tribes and the lynx themselves will have the final say,” Werntz said.