Since October, 10 Canadian lynx have been released into the Kettle Range as part of a five-year tribal effort to reintroduce the felines to Washington state.

Tribal biologists captured an adult male in Canada on Friday and released him in the Kettle Mountains on Saturday. With this release, the tribe has completed its work of capturing lynx in 2022, said Rose Piccinini, senior wildlife biologist and project manager for Colville Confederate Tribes. Since the project began in 2021, tribal authorities have released 17 lynx.

“It’s one of those fun predator projects that nobody complains about,” she said during a presentation at the Wildlife Society meeting in Spokane.

In 2021, biologists captured and released 9 collared lynx with the aim of releasing 10 a year, Piccinini said. Two of those animals made it back to Canada and biologists re-trapped them this fall, so just 17 animals in the Kettles, she said.

However, this was not a setback, as the path these animals took from the United States to Canada revealed important information about habitat connections.

“We hope to protect those connections to critical habitat,” she said.

Jesse Tinsley – The Spokesperson Review

Unlike last year, the tribe began trapping in October, a change in strategy that made the process easier, Piccinini said. Last year the tribe trapped until February but only managed to get 9 animals. This year, they achieved that goal in just over a month.

“I’m really excited about the previous entrapment,” she said. “It’s easier for the cats and it’s easier for my team.”

The project is part of the tribe’s overall goal to preserve – or reintroduce – native species.

“The Tribe’s Fish and Wildfire Management Plan aims to reintroduce and restore wildlife populations that have been suppressed or extirpated from reservations,” Piccinini said in a previous interview with the SR. “It’s always been a goal of our department, to bring the species back and have as natural a landscape as possible.”

In Washington, the lynx was listed as a state endangered species in 1993 and, in 2000, as a federally endangered species. This came after years of intentional trapping, accidental hunting, and habitat loss due primarily to wildfires in the western United States. A 2019 habitat feasibility study identified the Kettle Mountain Range as suitable habitat for lynx. An additional bonus? They are geographically related to lynx populations in Canada.

And in another step towards the ultimate goal – a self-sustaining lynx population – one of Washington’s females had a kitten, although Piccinini doesn’t know if the kitten survived.

“The big goal as we move forward in the next three years is to document breeding,” she said.

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