Conservation, Research and Education Opportunities International

Assessing the status of Canada lynx in the Kettle River Mountain Range

C. Vynne, Osprey Insights

Canada lynx, one of three wild cats native to Washington State, depend on large pristine tracts of boreal forest habitat with ample snowshoe hare and persistent deep snow. In Washington, lynx populations steeply declined due to trapping and habitat degradation and they were afforded Federal protection under the Endangered Species Act in 2000. Numerous studies have pointed to evidence that the persistence of lynx in Washington will depend on maintaining the connected network of populations across Washington, and north into British Columbia. While a number of surveys have documented lynx presence and density across suitable habitat in the Cascade Mountains, there is relatively little information about the population status of the species outside of the Cascades. The Kettle River Mountain Range, or ‘Kettles’, occupy northeast Washington State and form an important east-west bridge for meta-populations of lynx and other wide-ranging species that occupy both the Cascades and Rocky Mountains. When lynx were federally listed, one-third of the Kettle’s lynx management areas contained lynx. Despite this and the fact that several modeling exercises have pointed to the importance of the Kettles for lynx conservation, the Kettles have been left out of recent critical habitat designations. While individual occurrences have been recorded over the past several years, there  have been no systematic surveys of this range. This project will launch a survey for lynx in the Kettles to assess the status of the species in more than 200,000 acres of available, suitable habitat. Specifically, camera-trap stations will be deployed to assess presence and density, and genetic information collected through hair-snare stations will provide valuable information on the population size and connectivity to other regions. CREOi support will bring researcher capacity and field support to a region that has been overlooked because of lack of information and where there is not currently capacity or funding to otherwise support surveys. This project will tie into actionable management plans that are being developed for the broader region and will also establish a baseline for monitoring future trends. ($20,000)