Photos taken of Minnesota animal
By Shawn Perich
Grand Marais, Minn. Federal biologists are hopeful that funding
will be available to step up lynx monitoring and research efforts
“We’re committed to doing everything we can to learn more about
Minnesota’s lynx,” says U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
research biologist Jean Cochrane.
Plans are under way to begin a radio-tracking project utilizing
graduate student Chris Burdett through the auspices of the Natural
Resources Research Institute (NRRI) at Duluth. Noted biologist L.
David Mech and Jerry Niemi of NRRI are co-principal investigators
on the project.
Research is inspired in part by numerous sightings of lynx in
northeastern Minnesota during the past two years. The native cats
appear to be at a high point in its population cycle. Lynx were
rarely seen in Minnesota during the past two decades. The animal
has been listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered
Cochrane says researchers hope to capture lynx, fit them with
radio collars, release them, and then track their movements.
Although they are beginning to order radio telemetry equipment,
biologists are uncertain when the project will receive sufficient
funding to get under way. Costs are anticipated to total over
$100,000 per year.
Cochrane says there is support for lynx research within the
federal wildlife management bureaucracy, but the endeavor must
compete with other projects for approval. Presently, the federal
budget has been held up pending action by Congress.
“It could be months before we know about the funding,” Cochrane
Superior National Forest biologist Ed Lindquist plans to
continue compiling data about lynx by following up on reported
sightings and establishing systematic track winter counts for lynx
and other carnivores.
Field work for a “hair snare” survey, part of a coordinated
national effort, will be completed this year. The three-year survey
has not shown evidence of lynx in Minnesota. Efforts to locate lynx
through reported sightings has been more successful. Last winter,
volunteers under Lindquist’s direction collected over three dozen
scat and hair samples by back-tracking lynx. The samples were sent
to a federal laboratory in Montana for DNA analysis. Results from
about a dozen samples have been returned and confirm the presence
of several individual lynx. Lindquist is still waiting for the
remaining sample results.
Lindquist says data collected in the past year has increased
knowledge about Minnesota’s lynx. It has established scientific
proof of the presence of lynx, provided some information about lynx
densities and geographic distribution, and turned up evidence of
reproduction and likely recruitment of young to the population.
While more information is needed on all aspects of lynx biology,
Lindquist says he’d like to learn more about the cats’ habitat
preferences and collect more information about their primary prey:
snowshoe hares and red squirrels. He is hopeful that funding will
be found to further lynx research.
“We’re feel we can pull off an excellent research project in
Minnesota,” Lindquist says.
Cochrane says that while present research efforts are being led
by federal wildlife biologists and NRRI, other agencies, including
the Minnesota DNR, the 1854 Authority, and the Fond du Lac Band are
participating in the discussions.