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Home » Projects » Restoring wápupxn (Canada lynx) to their native lands in Northeast Washington: a translocation project

Restoring wápupxn (Canada lynx) to their native lands in Northeast Washington: a translocation project

This a continuation of a 2021 CREOi-funded project. In 1993, wápupxn (Canada lynx, Lynx canadensis) were listed as a Washington State threatened species and by 2017 were up-listed to endangered status. In 2000, they were listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Numerous studies have pointed to evidence that the persistence of lynx in Washington State will depend on maintaining the connected network of populations across Washington, and north into British Columbia (BC). The Kettle River Mountain Range, or ‘Kettles’, occupy northeast Washington State and form an important east-west bridge for meta-populations of lynx. With the increase in devastating wildfires in the Okanogan and Cascades ranges, maintaining a source population of lynx in the Kettles could be essential to long-term persistence of the species in the state. Population surveys previously funded by CREOi have documented the presence of lynx in the Kettles, but sightings were extremely rare.

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (CCT) partnered with Conservation Northwest (CNW), the Okanogan Nation Alliance and others to begin implementing a Canada lynx population augmentation program to restore lynx back to CCT ancestral lands in the Kettles. The program’s goal is to live-trap a total of 50 lynx over five years from healthy southern BC populations and release them on the Colville Reservation. The expected result is the establishment of a sustainable breeding population of lynx in the Kettles.

CREOi supported the first lynx trapping season in winter 2021-22 and this continuation award supported season three of lynx trapping (winter 2023-24), during which seven lynx (four males and three females) were translocated. Trapped lynx were fitted with radio collars and ear tags, photographed, weighed, sampled for genetic material, and evaluated for overall health and fitness. Lynx were transported across the US/Canada border and released on the Colville Reservation. Once radio-collared individuals were released, an extensive monitoring effort was initiated to record habitat use, daily and seasonal movement, home range establishment, breeding success, and mortality. Results are assessed each year to determine if distribution, survival, and reproduction objectives are being achieved.

Over three years, the program has translocated 26 lynx. Two returned to BC and were recaptured and released in the Kettles again. One was killed by a BC trapper. There were two additional mortalities, one from parasites that are now treated upon capture and another that is undergoing necropsy. Two lynx have dropped their collars as anticipated. The collars on five lynx unexpectedly stopped broadcasting signals. The last available collar data suggest that six lynx returned to BC, seven are in Colville National Forest (WA) and eight on the Colville Reservation. Last summer, the team established several camera stations proximate to possible den locations where female detections were clustered and will examine results when batteries and cards are refreshed this spring. Conservation Northwest also tracked lynx movement, distribution, and resource and habitat utilization in the Kettles, some of which has informed Forest Service project planning.

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