Biologists with the Colorado Division of Wildlife have been cheered by the births of 10 lynx kittens in Colorado this spring, according to the Associated Press. Prior to the discoveries of the kittens -- seven males and three females in five separate dens -- no newborn lynxes had been found in Colorado since 2006.
The species once flourished in the area but were gone by the early 1970s as a result of purposeful killings (by traps and poison) and human encroachment (in the forms of logging and property development). In the last 10 years, 218 lynxes from Alaska and Canada have been released in Colorado, but biologists don't know how many members of the threatened species are currently in the state.
Lynxes are well-adapted to life as solitary hunters; the signature black tufts of fur that extend from the tips of their ears help to magnify sound, and they have incredible eyesight (they can spot a mouse 250 feet away). Their large, furry feet act as snowshoes. But all of these adaptations are useless if there are insufficient numbers of prey species such as snowshoe hares; indeed, a decline in the hares' population is one fact cited by some as a possible reason no kittens were found in Colorado in 2007 or 2008.
The new births are undoubtedly great news for those working to help the species survive; Defenders of Wildlife estimates that about 1,000 lynxes live in the lower 48 states.
Make that 1,010.
Discovery of 10 lynx kittens heartens Colorado wildlife biologists | L.A. Unleashed | Los Angeles Times