AP File Photo
A Canada lynx heads into the Rio Grande National Forest after being released near Creede, Colo., in this 2005 photo. The number of Canada lynx in Vermont has increased over the last several years.
MONTPELIER — Although rarely seen, the Canada lynx appears to be increasing in number in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, an encouraging sign for a species the state considers endangered.
Refuge Manager Mark Maghini of the Nulhegan Basin wildlife refuge says as many as six or more of the snow-loving cats may live in the area. The 20-inch tall animal is known for its large feet, which act as snowshoes.
In the last century, the elusive animals were pushed out of the state — and many other parts of the country — largely because of the destruction of their forest habitat.
“It’s really kind of cool to see a formerly extirpated species start to reappear, and I think even more so to have a species on a national wildlife refuge,” Maghini said.
The basin lies within the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, which was established to conserve wildlife habitat in the Connecticut River watershed.
“You have a nice mix of protected federal lands, and those lands happen to provide habitat for a federally listed species,” Maghini said.
The federal government lists Canada lynx as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, while Vermont gives it the more critical designation of endangered within the state.
In winter 2012, federal and state biologists set out to survey 26,000 acres and found a female lynx with three young, confirming a breeding population, Maghini said. A lynx also walked in front of a trail camera in broad daylight last winter, giving an unimpeded view of the animal.
Just a few weeks ago, Maghini said, he saw fresh lynx tracks while opening the gate on a snowmobile trail.
The lynx’s favored prey is the snow hare, abundant in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, which also provides the dense forests with a conifer mix where lynx thrive, Maghini said.MORE IN Vermont News
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