January 4, 2007
Great Bend, Kansas -- A lynx that had spent the last few
weeks wandering much of western Kansas has been returned to its
southwestern Colorado home range.
The wandering lynx was sighted Nov. 22 at Smoky Valley Ranch, a
Nature Conservancy property located in Logan County, by Charlie
Lee, extension wildlife specialist at Kansas State University. Lee
at first thought it was a large bobcat but upon closer observation
identified it as a lynx. Lynx closely resemble the more common and
widespread bobcat but typically occupy remote, heavily-forested
mountain habitats. Aware that the Colorado Division of Wildlife
has an active lynx reintroduction program underway, Lee contacted
Colorado biologists drove to western Kansas to attempt to locate
and capture the animal -- which was wearing a radio transmitter
collar -- but were unsuccessful. Several days later, they flew
over the area using a receiver to monitor the animal’s radio
signal and located it in Gove County. By the next day, however,
the animal had traveled to Ness County.
The cat was finally captured Sunday, Dec. 31, by Brian Hanzlick, a
natural resource officer based in Great Bend.
“I got a call about 7:30 of big bobcat walking near Vets Park
Lake," Hanzlick said. "I started checking the tracks in the snow,
and they were just too big for a bobcat.” (Although they are only
slightly larger than bobcats, lynx have longer legs and notably
larger, well-furred feet.)
After contacting local zoo officials to confirm that a captive
animal from the zoo had not escaped, Hanzlick continued following
the tracks through the snow at Vets Park, located in northwestern
Great Bend. Hanzlick eventually spotted the lynx hidden in a clump
of grass and brush. Catch-pole in hand, Hanzlick slowly worked his
way toward the animal. He spent more than an hour inching his way
toward the cat and was finally able to loop the noose of the
catch-pole around its neck, then quickly placed it in a cage and
transported it to a Brit Spaugh Zoo rehabilitation facility, where
it was given food and water.
The lynx remained there until Colorado Division of Wildlife
officials arrived Tuesday to transport it back to the southwest
Colorado habitat where it had originally been released.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife released more than 200 lynx in
the remote San Juan Mountains region in the southwestern part of
the state from 1999 through spring of 2006 in an attempt to
restore a native species that had not been documented in Colorado
in several decades. Released animals were fitted with radio
collars to monitor their movements. In addition to Kansas,
Colorado-released lynx have traveled into Utah, Wyoming, New
Mexico, Montana, Idaho, Arizona, Nebraska, and Nevada.