Lynx pays visit to slopes

Skiers at Pur­ga­tory re­sort near Du­rango treated to rare sight

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By The Den­ver Post

A rare Canada lynx stunned on­look­ing skiers and snow­board­ers this week when it crossed a run at Pur­ga­tory re­sort near Du­rango.

The lynx’s hi­jinks hap­pened on the re­sort’s De­mon run and was cap­tured on video by a re­sort pa­tron iden­ti­fy­ing him­self as Air­rick Hix, who posted it to Facebook with the mes­sage, “That just hap­pened!!! The ma­jes­tic Lynx!!!”

Pur­ga­tory spokes­woman Kim Oyler said the re­sort is prime lynx habi­tat — lots of trees and deep snow — and re­sort em­ploy­ees some­times spot tracks or other signs of the an­i­mals. But a sight­ing in broad day­light on an open slope is prac­ti­cally un­heard of.

“It’s some­thing that we nor­mally don’t see on a reg­u­lar ba­sis on our slopes,” she said. “They’re pretty elu­sive an­i­mals.”

The Du­rango Her­ald first re­ported the lynx sight­ing.

A spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife said the lynx on the video looks healthy and doesn’t ap­pear to be suf­fer­ing from an in­jury. The lynx isn’t wear­ing a track­ing col­lar, in­di­cat­ing it was born in the wild.

Parks and Wildlife spokesman Joe Le­wandowski said the lynx’s ca­sual be­hav­ior around hu­mans could be a con­cern — wildlife of­fi­cials don’t want an­i­mals to be­come too ha­bit­u­ated to peo­ple. But he also said the lynx, at the top of the food chain in its habi­tat, wouldn’t likely be eas­ily in­tim­i­dated.

“Wild an­i­mals do what wild an­i­mals do,” Le­wandowski said. “And we just do ask that peo­ple don’t try to feed them or try to ap­proach them. View them from a dis­tance.”

Lynx had once been ex­tinct in Colorado, but, in 1999, state wildlife of­fi­cials be­gan rein­tro­duc­ing the cats in the San Juan moun­tains of south­west­ern Colorado. Parks and Wildlife es­ti­mates there are now 150 to 250 lynx spread out across Colorado, and Le­wandowski said the San Juans — in which Pur­ga­tory sits — re­main a “strong­hold” for lynx. The lynx on the video is likely three or four gen­er­a­tions re­moved from those first rein­tro­duced cats, Le­wandowski said.

Lynx are medium-sized cats — about 20 to 30 pounds — and are distin­guished from bob­cats by their gray­ish fur and tufts on their ears. They have large paws, which they use like snow­shoes to walk on top of heavy snow. That’s some­thing the Pur­ga­tory lynx will need, be­cause the re­sort has a 42-inch base and an ex­pec­ta­tion of up to 2 more feet of snow this week­end, Oyler said.

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