In 1997, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) undertook what was to become one of North America’s most high-profile carnivore reintroductions to date. The goal of CPW’s lynx reintroduction program was to establish a self-sustaining lynx population within Colorado, where biologists felt quality lynx habitat still existed. The observations and lessons from this program – the latest in a long line of successful CPW reintroductions – may be helpful in planning future carnivore reintroductions such as wolverines in Colorado and elsewhere.
Benchmarks for success
To evaluate the near-term success of lynx reintroduction efforts, the CPW established a set of benchmarks for tracking the progress towards Colorado’s lynx population becoming self-sustaining:
- reintroduced lynx demonstrate a high rate of survival in the critical first months after release;
- released adult lynx demonstrate low mortality rates over the longer term, particularly in good habitat;
- lynx remain in good habitat at densities sufficient for breeding;
- reintroduced lynx successfully reproduce;
- lynx born in Colorado survive and also successfully reproduce (“recruitment”); and
- on balance, lynx recruitment equals or exceeds mortality over an extended period of time.
Reintroduced lynx have been monitored by the CPW for over a decade to track the population’s progress toward reaching these benchmarks. As of summer 2010, all of the CPW’s benchmarks for successful lynx reintroduction have now been met.
For more details and a map showing lynx locations, see Lynx Reintroduction Assessment .
LISTEN to CPW's terrestrial section manager Rick Kahn's interview on Colorado Public Radio.