[Reprinted from original]
Nov. 8—Since October, 10 Canadian lynx have been released into the Kettle Range as part of a five-year tribal effort to reintroduce the felines into Washington State.
On Friday, tribal biologists captured an adult male in Canada and released him into the Kettle Mountains Saturday. With that release the tribe has completed its 2022 lynx capture work, said Rose Piccinini senior wildlife biologist and project lead for the Colville Confederated Tribes. Since the project started in 2021, tribal officials have released 17 lynx.
"It's one of those fun predator projects that nobody complains about," she said during a presentation at The Wildlife Society's meeting in Spokane.
In 2021, biologists captured and released 9 collared lynx with a goal of releasing 10 a year, Piccinini said. Two of those animals returned to Canada and biologists re-trapped them this fall thus only 17 animals in the Kettles, she said.
However that was hardly a setback as the path those animals took from the U.S. to Canada revealed important information about habitat linkage.
"We're hoping to protect those critical habitat linkages," she said.
Jesse Tinsley — The Spokesaman-Review
Unlike last year the tribe started trapping in October, a shift in strategy that made the process easier, Piccinini said. Last year the tribe trapped through February but only managed to get 9 animals. This year they reached that goal in slightly over a month.
"I'm really excited about the earlier trapping," she said. "It's easier on the cats and it's easier on my team."
The project is part of the tribe's overall goal of preserving — or reintroducing — native species.
"The tribe's fish and wildfire management plan has a goal of reintroducing and reestablishing wildlife populations that have been removed or extirpated from the reservations," Piccinini said in a previous interview with the S-R. "That's always been a goal of our department, to bring back the species and have as natural a landscape as we can."
In Washington lynx were listed as a state endangered species in 1993, and, by 2000 a federally endangered one. That came after years of intentional trapping, accidental hunting and habitat loss due primarily to wildfire throughout the western U.S. A 2019 habitat feasibility study identified the Kettle Mountain range as suitable lynx habitat. An additional bonus? They are geographically connected to lynx populations in Canada.
And in another step toward the ultimate goal — a self-sustaining lynx population — one of the females in Washington had a kitten, although Piccinini doesn't know if the kitten survived.
"The big goal as we move forward into the next three years is to document reproduction," she said.