Working with First Nations to reduce lynx mortality

August 23, 2017 Chase Gunnell

By Alaina Kowitz, Communications and Outreach Associate

In our Working for Wildlife Initiative program area the third season of a collaborative transboundary project is well underway to decrease Canada lynx mortality, better understand their movements, and expand the involvement of First Nations, tribes, British Columbia trappers, and the provincial government in lynx conservation.

For years, lynx mortality from legal trapping and hunting in southern British Columbia has been recognized as an important factor limiting the species' population in Washington's North Cascades, as well as its sustained recolonization of the southern Kettle River Mountain Range to the east. Beginning in 2015, Conservation Northwest helped launch a pilot research project to gather new data on lynx movement and reduce mortality in southern B.C. near the Washington border. Then in 2016, we expanded our support, providing $17,000 to the Okanagan Nation Alliance for a staffer to help coordinate the project and about $15,000 for collars and other equipment. Additional fdinancial support was also provided by McDanel Foundation and other sponsors. Thank you! 

Under the leadership of the Okanagan Nation Alliance (of which the Colville Confederated Tribes is a member), this collaborative effort worked with First Nations and other trappers in British Columbia north of the Kettle Range and Loomis Forest. Instead of trapping these rare felines for their fur, they installed live traps to capture lynx to be collared and released, thereby directly reducing lynx mortality on that trap-line while also increasing our understanding of how lynx travel across the landscape in southern British Columbia and northeast Washington.

A live lynx before release. Photo: Okanagan Nation Alliance
A live lynx before release. Photo: Okanagan Nation Alliance

“We started the pilot project to foster research and the relationships with individuals and organizations essential to protecting the transboundary lynx population in northern Washington and southern British Columbia,” said Dave Werntz, Science and Conservation Director, “Applying lessons from the first two years, the project continues this winter under the leadership of Dan Thornton’s lab at Washington State University.”

Three lynx were trapped and collared over the 2015-16 winter, and last winter another five lynx were collared including two females. The collars either have dropped off or will drop off the animals this fall, and we look forward to retrieving them and analyzing the trove of data they hold. This will help inform future lynx conservation efforts by tribal nations, public agencies, and non-profit organizations including Conservation Northwest.

This winter, Dr. Dan Thornton's Mammal Spatial Ecology and Conservation Lab at Washington State University will further expand the project, aiming to collar another 10 lynx including within areas bisected by potential movement barriers such as highways. Dr. Thornton is also actively monitoring for new lynx documentations in Washington state.

We'll share more updates on this exciting work as they become available. Learn more about our work for Canada lynx, including recent lynx documentations in Washington’s Kettle Range, at: www.conservationnw.org/lynx

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