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Wildlife Biologists in Okanogan County are trapping and
collaring Canada lynx this winter to gather information on the elusive cat.
Biologists are interested in learning more about what the Canada lynx needs to survive and sustain a viable population. In particular, this year's study is looking at the cat's preference between forest landscapes that are fragmented, unfragmented, and those recently impacted by wildland fire.
"The Canada lynx is listed as a threatened species at both the state and federal levels. Information gathered in these studies helps land managers better understand what is needed for the continuation of the species in the North Cascades Ecosystem," said Matt Marsh, Wildlife Biologist for the Tonasket Ranger District.
Focused in the north central and northwest portion of the county, this winter's study activities are part of a long term effort to learn more about the needs and habits of the Canada lynx. Previous studies have shown that they prefer the higher elevation forests that support snowshoe hares which are their main food source.
"So far this year, we've recaptured a male lynx from last year," said Marsh. "Lycan #346 is one of several previously captured cats that are still in the area."
The study this year is intended to focus on females and new unmarked males.
"The females are harder to capture," he said. "We have been able to determine that there are two females in the study area, each with at least one kitten. They are more cautious, in part because they are responsible for the care of the kittens."
The northern part of Okanogan County hosts the largest population of Canada lynx in Washington. Canada lynx have large feet, enabling them to remain on top of the soft fluffy snow. They weigh in at an average of about 20 pounds with black tipped tails and long tufts of fur on their ears. They prefer to live in boreal (subalpine fir, Engelmann fir, and lodgepole pine) forests above 4000 feet, with populations in Alaska and a few of the lower 48 states including Washington. They feed primarily on snowshoe hares. This portion of north central Washington is a suitable environment for lynx because of the boreal forests that support abundant snowshoe hares. The deep winter snow levels during are also important.
Since 2006 the study has captured 12 lynx. Before release,
information is recorded about the health age and gender of each cat and it is fitted with a global positioning collar. The collars have transmitted thousands of points of geographic data back to biologists.
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