Lynx, Long Sought in Yellowstone National Park, Is Caught on Film

This lynx was photographed near Beryl Springs in late November. Fred Paulsen photo.

One of the most mysterious creatures of the boreal forest, the lynx historically has been tied to Yellowstone National Park.

But in recent years, its existence in the park has been hard to document, tied only to a few paw prints and DNA coaxed from scat and hairs. Now park biologists have a photograph to add to their evidence.

Fred Paulsen, a Xanterra Parks & Resorts concessions employee who has worked in Yellowstone for roughly 24 years, encountered the tuft-eared carnivore in late November while driving between the Norris Geyser Basin and Mammoth Hot Springs. He initially thought the animal in the middle of the road was perhaps a mountain lion, or maybe a bobcat. But later, when reviewing his photographs, he realized what he had come upon.

"It was big, about the size of a German shepherd," Mr. Paulsen told the Billings Gazette.

The fact that the lynx was wearing a radio collar led biologists to speculate that it probably came north from Colorado, where more than 200 collar-wearing lynx were released between 1999 and 2006 in an effort to repopulate the state with the species.

Before Colorado began working with lynx recovery, Wyoming was thought to contain the southernmost natural habitat for the cats. Key to the animal's existence is coniferous forests that support thick undergrowth treasured by the lynx's preferred winter prey -- snowshoe hares. Unfortunately, logging, development, and increased backcountry access have conspired to make western Wyoming's habitat fairly marginal when it comes to snowshoe hares and, as a result, lynx.

Indeed, the last two lynx tracked via radio-collar by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department starved to death -- a female turned up dead in March 2000 while a male died in February 2003.

Things weren't always so bleak for lynx in Wyoming. During the winter of 1971-72 trappers came out of the Wyoming Range with 18 lynx.

Comments

You say-Things weren't always so bleak for lynx in Wyoming. During the winter of 1971-72 trappers came out of the Wyoming Range with 18 lynx-you call that not so bleak what the trappers did not kill the loggers did. This is why our earth with its natural wild life is disappearing is due to crap like this. If logging, trappers and etc keep up their activity in the Rain Forest do you think you can also state "Things weren't so bleak for the Rain Forest at that time they had......"
This remark is sad.

Are there any protections that can be granted if this individual has naturally recolonized to the area? Are lynx threatened or endangered outside of the park boundaries?

Intentionally killing 18 lynx during the winter of 1971-72 was a pretty sorry thing to do, but the size of the trapper take implies that there was a respectable population of lynx in the area back in the early 70s. Road kill can also be interpreted this way. There are lots of dead possums, raccoons, and foxes along the roads in our community. It's sad to see this carnage, but it couldn't happen if there weren't lots of possums, raccoons, and foxes living in this area. It's a good bet that these species are replacing their losses, too, since the road kill count doesn't seem to have changed much in recent years.

Bryan,

Since 2000 the Canada lynx has been recognized as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In November 2006 the agency identified areas of critical habitat for the lynx around Voyageurs National Park, Glacier National Park, and North Cascades National Park, but none around Yellowstone.

That said, under their threatened status lynx may not be hunted or trapped in the Lower 48.

Kurt

Kurt, thanks for the lynx links... :-)

On Sunday, Jan 10 my husband, son and I saw what I think was a lynx at Burgess junction near Sheridan, Wyoming in the Big Horn Mountains. I was able to take 10 photos as the lynx sat on a fence and looked at us. I showed the photos around to some hunters only to see their excited facial expressions when they told me it was a lynx. I have named my photo "Lynx on a fence". Bonnie

In the winters of 2001 and 2002 I assisted in the inventory project for Yellowstone lynx by skiing surveys throughout the park. As you say we never saw one, but found what were unequivocal lynx tracks in the snow several times. I have a cast from 2002 on my desk here next to me.

That is the first pic of a real Lynx i have ever seen.

:O