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

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.

To assess the status of the species in the region, this project has launchedasystematic survey for lynx throughout the Kettles. From late May through early October 2016, we sampled 29 40×40 km hexagonal grids, with a total of 116 camera locations. While the density of lynx appears to be low, we have confirmed their presence in the region. This project will tie into actionable management plans that are being developed for the broader region and will also help to establish a baseline for monitoring future trends. ($20,000)