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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Following up on our posting of two weeks back on alleged Lynx sightings in Vermont has us able to today report that Biologists have confirmed multiple Lynx tracks in the Northeast Kingdom section of the State.....In addition to 8 sets of tracks, scat was also collected from the sights..........Likely that two to three distinct animals will be determined by the DNA testing going on now........"There's no mistaking that these were lynx tracks," said state wildlife biologist Chris Bernier, who is leading the track survey for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department...... "The DNA will confirm that and help determine the number of individuals that made the tracks".....With Maine now having a 600-1200 Lynx, both Vermont and New Hampshire are becoming the beneficiaries of dispersing felines......What is clear is that lynx are a living testament to recent efforts to conserve large blocks of forest land in Vermont, particularly in the Northeast Kingdom, which provide connectivity to the greater Northern Forest

Lawrence Pyne

It's official: Canada lynx are indeed in Vermont. The recent discovery of multiple lynx tracks in the Northeast Kingdom simply confirms what has long been suspected. But it also raises more questions than it answers.

Such as, why are the rare wildcats of the far north here now? How many are there, and are they here to stay? And what are the implications of having a confirmed population of a federally-listed threatened species in Vermont, both for forest management and the regulated trapping of other fur-bearing animals?

Wildlife biologists made the discovery during the first formal lynx track survey in Vermont, which was conducted in the Nulhegan Basin in northern Essex County and based on a model developed in Maine. Researchers there found that an 80-kilometer route, if surveyed by snowmobile 24 hours after a snowstorm, picked up at least one "track intercept" from all the known lynx in a 100- square-kilometer area. That's about the size of the 26,000-acre Conte National Wildlife Refuge, which is where the survey was centered.

Five "track intercepts" were discovered Feb. 27 and three more were found during a second run Tuesday. By following the tracks backward, biologists were also able to collect scat from five of the intercepts. Cats ingest their own hair while grooming, and the droppings will be sent to a lab for DNA analysis.

The eight tracks were not necessarily made by eight separate animals. Most likely two or more were made by the same animal. But biologists are confident they were all made by lynx. The 15- to 30-pound cats have huge, furry feet, which allows them to traverse deep snow in pursuit of their primary prey, snowshoe hares, and their tracks are hard to confuse with other animals, even bobcats.

"There's no mistaking that these were lynx tracks," said state wildlife biologist Chris Bernier, who is leading the track survey for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. "The DNA will confirm that and help determine the number of individuals" that made the tracks.
The discovery of the tracks is exciting, but not surprising. That's because since 1998 there have been 11 confirmed lynx sightings in the Northeast Kingdom, nine of which were in Essex County. And in December, officials confirmed the presence of four lynx kittens in northern New Hampshire, indicating that lynx are now breeding only a stone's throw away.
"We kind of assumed that we have lynx in Vermont, based on the number of sightings and what's been found in New Hampshire," Bernier said. "But I did not expect we'd find so many (tracks) so quickly."

What makes it unusual is lynx were probably never abundant in Vermont, which is at the southern edge of their range. Unlike wolves, which were well documented in Vermont prior to being wiped out by habitat loss and bounty hunting in the late 1800s, there is no evidence that lynx were ever plentiful. From 1797 to 1968, there were only four documented reports of lynx in the state.

So why are they here now? The most likely answer is they are the result of animals that have dispersed from northern Maine. Until recently, Maine had the only confirmed lynx population in the East, which benefitted greatly from the spruce budworm epidemic in the 1970s and 80s. It resulted in hundreds of thousands of acres of commercial forest being clear cut, which in turn resulted in a profusion of young, dense regenerating forest cover that created ideal habitat for hares.

t also resulted in an explosion in moose. Just as the big deer spilled over into New Hampshire and Vermont, so too probably did lynx. Except being smaller, shyer animals, lynx were not as visible. They might have also been spurred on by a recent decline in hares in Maine.

Biologists in Maine believe its lynx population, which is estimated at 600 to 1,200 animals, peaked in 2006 and has since declined as regenerating clear cuts have grown into more mature forest stands that support fewer hares.

In the long run, that could be bad news for lynx in Vermont, as populations at the edge of their range tend to ebb and flow with core populations.
For now, all we know is Vermont has a "detectable" population. Of what size, no one knows. Track surveys, when repeated over time, only provide information on population trends, not total numbers. Snow conditions permitting, another track survey will be conducted this month in the Victory Basin in southern Essex County to see if it also has a detectable population.

Questions also remain about the impact of lynx on forest management practices and trapping. The Northeast Kingdom is the last stronghold of young forest cover in Vermont – and snowshoe hares – but commercial logging, especially clear cutting, is on the wane there, as it is across Vermont. That does not bode well for lynx.

Animal rights activists have also used lynx elsewhere to try to shut down trapping. In Maine, five lynx have died as a result of trapping since 2000, but none since the state modified its trapping regulations. New Hampshire has already proposed creating a special "lynx protection zone" in the northern half of the state that would have special trapping regulations.

Bernier says the presence of lynx "is not an insurmountable problem" for trappers, who, he notes, do not want to catch lynx anymore than non-trappers want them to. Trapping might even be beneficial, he added, because trappers help control coyote, bobcat and fisher populations, which compete with lynx for prey.

What is clear is that lynx are a living testament to recent efforts to conserve large blocks of forest land in Vermont, particularly in the Northeast Kingdom, which provide connectivity to the greater Northern Forest. Without that, it's possible we would not even be looking for lynx.

"Lynx demonstrate the importance of all the work so many groups have done to preserve large open spaces in Vermont," Bernier said. "And they're a really cool animal. They're very independent and they thrive in the cold and snow. They're a perfect symbol for Vermont."


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