The first of three releases of more Canada lynx in the wilds of Colorado is set for April 1 as the state Division of Wildlife continues efforts to restore the longhaired, reclusive cat to the state.
Four lynx trapped in the Yukon or British Columbia will be set free. A total of 14 lynx will be released in April, bringing to 218 the number set loose in Colorado since the restoration program began in 1999.
Last year, 38 Canada lynx were released in the state. Fewer lynx are being brought to Colorado this year because the cats are reproducing. Biologists say 110 kittens have been born the past three years.
"Everybody's very pleased with the way things are going," Division of Wildlife spokesman Joe Lewandowski said.
A major milestone will be achieved when Colorado-born lynx start reproducing. That will boost the chances of a self-sustaining population.
An estimated 200 lynx are roaming through the mountains of southwest Colorado. Biologists are tracking 93 lynx by their radio collars.
A total of 78 lynx are confirmed dead. Some were hit and killed by vehicles, shot or, early in the program, starved to death.
Colorado is the southernmost tip of the animal's historic range. Trapping, poisoning and development wiped out native lynx, with the last confirmed sighting before the recovery program coming in 1973 near Vail.
The lynx is listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, which gives it federal protection. Colorado lists the cat as endangered.