Lynx confirmed on the Bridger-Teton National Forest
by BTNF News Release
February 28, 2005
Endeavor Wildlife Research (EWR), in cooperation with Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF), Wyoming Game and Fish Department, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Utah State University, Wild Things Unlimited, USDA/USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station, and local volunteers, have confirmed the presence of Canada lynx on the Buffalo Ranger District of the Bridger-Teton.
Using DNA analysis, a total of four biological samples from three different locations on the Buffalo Ranger District have been confirmed as originating from Canada lynx. EWR Biologists obtained DNA samples by locating and following lynx tracks on skis or snowshoes until the animal lies down in the snow and leaves a hair sample in a daybed or defecates. Samples from hair or scat are carefully collected and sent to the USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station’s (RMRS) Wildlife Genetics Laboratory in Missoula, Montana, where DNA analysis is conducted to determine the species and sex of the animal.
While scientifically valuable, these findings do not change current management actions for the Bridger-Teton since the Forest has been required to manage for lynx habitat with the assumption that lynx are present, after the creation of the Lynx Conservation Assessment and Strategy (2000), which prescribed management direction for National Forests in the Northern Rockies that provide habitat suitable to lynx and their prey.
In some cases, DNA samples can provide genetic information that allows for identification of individual animals. One sample collected by EWR biologists from scat found in early December 2004 matches the genotype from a male Canada lynx whose scat was collected the previous January in Yellowstone National Park by the Yellowstone Lynx Project. This is a significant find because it indicates this lynx has likely resided in the Greater Yellowstone area for at least one year, and that lynx can and do move large distances within the ecosystem. Documenting large-scale movements is especially important for BTNF lynx because the Bridger-Teton National Forest represents the southern most naturally occurring population of Canada lynx in the United States.
Before finding DNA evidence of lynx existence in the northern zone of the BTNF this winter, the last known Canada lynx on the Forest, a radio-collared animal referred to as George, died in 2001 in the Wyoming Range. With his passing, some thought that perhaps lynx may have been extirpated from the BTNF and western Wyoming. However, last winter, four Jackson area biologists working on other projects found what they believed were lynx tracks in three different locations on the BTNF. These biologists officially created Endeavor Wildlife Research, a 501c3 non-profit organization, in August 2004 to focus research and monitoring efforts on Canada lynx in the Greater Yellowstone region, particularly on the BTNF.
Since January 2004, EWR biologists, with help from Lance Koch of the BTNF and Susan Patla of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, have found lynx tracks on nineteen occasions in five different drainages on the BTNF. Several more DNA samples have been collected and will soon be submitted to the RMRS Genetics Laboratory for species identification. Additionally, EWR, in partnership with Wild Exposures of Jackson, has deployed remotely triggered camera stations in hopes of obtaining photographs of the elusive lynx
EWR’s Greater Yellowstone Lynx Study is a multi-year study that will survey mountainous terrain around Jackson for lynx presence from Togwotee Pass on the north to the Wyoming and Salt River Ranges. Currently, EWR is working hard with their collaborators to secure funding to initiate a GPS/satellite tracking study on the BTNF that could begin as early as November 2005. Lynx would be fitted with specialized collars that record the animal’s daily movements and activity level. This will provide a detailed record of movements and habitat use.
Data from this study will allow scientists to better understand local lynx demographic and reproductive characteristics, habitat and food requirements, and critical corridor linkages within the Greater Yellowstone Area. EWR hopes to understand why Canada lynx numbers are so low in the Greater Yellowstone Area and develop recommendations for public land managers to consider in their habitat management efforts.
EWR biologists will continue surveys and hope to locate more lynx this winter in additional areas of the Forest that appear to have suitable habitat and an adequate prey base. A complete report of EWR’s Greater Yellowstone Lynx Study findings from this first winter of snow tracking surveys will be available in summer 2005.
If you would like to support this project, or have information that may help further Canada lynx research on the BTNF, please contact: Nathan D. Berg, EWR President and Project Biologist or Lance Koch, BTNF Buffalo/Jackson Ranger District Biologist.