How do you define Success?


aspen in spring snow


For some really strange reason I have this inner calling to open my mouth and speak up for the wilds and wildlife and the mountains around me. Maybe it’s that David and Goliath thing. At times, it gets me in trouble and doesn’t always get me friends, but I can’t help myself, and feel morally obliged. I have to speak up  – maybe the only contrary voice out there – one little woman taking on a bunch of big boys.

Few of you will read this.  Fewer still will care.  And a few might even get a little riled up (safe to say, based on personal biases and connections held onto tightly).  Good.  Go ahead.  The truth can be disturbing…. Time to open your eyes, and your hearts, and look a little deeper, my friends.

Most of us believe what we want to believe.  I guess it’s part of human survival. From assumptions to core beliefs. And changing our minds is as rare as changing religion. I am not asking you to change your mind.  Only open it.

This is about the Canadian Lynx relocated to southern Colorado, and those that have worked to create a successful program… at what cost and for whom?  Now they have launched a review and I think we can safely guess what they will call their outcome.  Before you too are convinced of their self proclaimed success, please read on.



For whom, and at what expense?


I have nothing to lose in speaking up. Nothing riding on this but care and concern for those with whom I share this mountain and the wilds.  I also have nothing to gain.  No money, no reputation, no ego, nothing to prove to the public.

It’s been about ten years since I first voiced my concerns.  I imagine unrelated to my little voice from up on this big mountain, not too long after that, they left the remaining lynx alone.  Rumor had it the program ran out of funding, and public opinion was getting wise and getting mad.  They simply called their program “a success,” and left the mountain with their tail between their legs.  Along the way, they quietly removed their sign depicting the cute little lynx at the beginning of the road where it changes from pavement to dirt which was intended, I suppose, as a warning to people driving by. After all the trapping, touching and handling in the relocation and continued monitoring even after release, the lynx were known to walk towards humans up here, not run away.  That’s how most folks around these parts learned to identify the lynx, not to be confused with the wise and native bobcat.  Well, that and the darned collars.

I live 18 miles up that road, just beyond where they release the lynx that had been trapped, sedated, relocated, and “rehabbed” to adjust to our altitude, they say.   Not a lot of other people live here, especially in winter.  I think there’s one family about six miles away as the crow flies; otherwise, the nearest home is 18 miles away… back down by that sign. The lynx do live around me.  A few that made it.  I see their tracks, and keep my mouth shut and wish they would just hide so “they” wouldn’t come bother them again. But here “they” are, back at it.

And so, I am too. Voicing my concerns about a program that may have been born with the best of intentions. That was many moons (millions of dollars, and hundreds of lives) ago.   Now, if we dare to look deeply, we are forced to question:  who is this program really for, and who truly stands to gain from this process?


The program I am referring to is the relocation of Canadian Lynx to southern Colorado, an area that at best may have been the southernmost range recorded for this beautiful animal currently designated as a “threatened species” but often referred to incorrectly as “endangered.” I’ve even hear the species referred to as the Colorado Lynx, which I suppose would make this a new species all together, or simply a term of endearment for those wonderful creatures that were taken from their native Canada and actually survived here.

Now they’re doing a review.  Proving their success.  Yeah!  After how much time and money and losses, there are Canada lynx alive and well in Colorado!

Yet, we must not be fooled by the “facts” we are provided with, nor ruled solely on our emotions for cheering on what we want to be: the success of this wild animal.  Whose success are we really looking at?

What we have here is an ethical dilemma.  We’re playing a game, using a beautiful innocent creature as the pawn and one of the most unpopulated parts of the country as the playing ground. Who really are the players involved?  Though we all become involved as our heart strings are toyed with too…


Oddly enough, the “critical habit” for the Canadian Lynx in the Lower 48, as reported by US Fish and Wildlife, does not even go as far south as Colorado, not to mention southern Colorado, but includes Maine, Minnesota, Washington, Wyoming and Montana.

No matter. Here we are in the day of climate change and we’re thinking this is the thing to do:  let’s take an animal native to the eastern and western sides of Canada, and drop them off a thousand or two miles south in the middle of the mountains, and see what happens.

This week we have snow.  What about the rest of the winter? What about, as even “they“ have called it, the new normal?  We jokingly call this part of the southern San Juans The Banana Belt.  Compare us to northern BC, Alaska and Quebec where the animals originated, I’d say that’s not too far off.  No, we have no bananas. But here at the head of the Rio Grande and the end of the Four Corners region, we have strong sun and wonderful warm days in winter and high altitude unlike anything seen up north…

I may not be any wildlife “specialist” but it does not take such degrees to grant common sense.  It takes eyes, mind, and heart.  I’m here, and I see.  I’m not reporting from behind a desk from some big city far away.  I’m talking about my back yard.  No, I’m not the slick professional putting out the press releases to stir public interest and to support my cause.  I’m just a small woman with a big heart who is crying out to try to get some answers, open some eyes, and protect the wilds I’m lucky (or crazy) enough to live in.


And so, they came here. First because there was no public interference. Hinsdale and Mineral Counties are each about 96% public lands.  That means, of course, only 4% private, and so, not a lot of people, period. Those folks up north were not only more plentiful, but wise to potential restrictions like road closures such a program could bring, and would not cooperate.

Recently, I read a new twist to this theory. Their story changed.  Now they say they researched and chose this location because they found so many snowshoe hare around here it seemed like a great place to give it a try.  I’ve also heard they relocated snowshoe hare here too, so I don’t know what or who to believe any more.

I do know this. My aunt scoffed when years ago I first told her enthusiastically they were bringing the Canadian Lynx to Colorado.  She’s from upstate New York.  “They tried that here too,” she scowled, “but the lynx all left.”

Ours tried to leave too. But this time, the powers that be chose a location so far away, making it back home would be close to impossible. They found “our” lynx in Kansas, and I don’t remember where else.  Many died trying, on the side of the road.  Though more of them simply starved.


Proof that if you put enough money into a program, have enough ego to keep at it at all costs, and are willing to risk enough lives, you can make anything work.


Now, I’m just a middle aged lady who has called this mountain home for over a dozen years. Nothing fancy; nothing powerful. In fact, kind of small and usually pretty darned quiet. I’m a homebody and would rather walk or ride a horse than get in or on anything motorized. I don’t fish or hunt and I can’t even get myself to kill a rabbit. I’ve lived up here far beyond where a lady “should” with my husband, my dog, horses, cats, chickens and a wild goose that came to us last spring and hasn’t left.  We raised our son here and at 21, he now is wintering at the South Pole station – testament, I suppose, to how remote, removed and cold one assumes it can be here. But we’re comfortable.  We live simply and eek out a living between running a seasonal guest ranch, writing and taking on odd jobs.  I’m not here to get rich. I’m here just to be here. The wilds, wildlife and Wilderness (note the capital W) mean the world to me after my family and my own animals.

This is my home, and after all these years, and all the battles I have taken on to remain here, I have an incredibly intimate connection with and fierce attachment to the land.  And for that land, I have a moral obligation.  For that land, I have to speak up and do what I can to protect the land, wilds and wildlife.


Playing God


As humans, we have a tendency to (1) want to care for those we feel need care; (2) want to prove we can do it – whatever it is – at whatever cost; (3) never want to admit we are wrong; and (4) want to control our environment rather than simply be in it.

Combine these all together, and you have the perfect formula for this program.


In spite of waning public opinion and growing concerns with sightings of these normally elusive animals on  roads and/or seemingly starving, at some point, the powers that be called their own program “a success.”  I recall reading that “the success” was based on this:  there were more cats born that year than cats that died.  Oh my god.  Do you know how many kittens are in a litter?  Now do the math.  And see if you can figure this out:  how many deaths then were they thus responsible for each year?

And how many millions of dollars were poured into this program to support these efforts… and by whom?

How many millions were spent trapping live animals in Canada, and (we must hope) caring for them in transit, rehab and relocating in to Colorado. On top of that, how many millions more were spent on salaries and snowmobiles and flights, and fossil fuels used to track from the air and trap in the snow?

The only “facts” and “figures” I can find are those provided by the very same people operating this program.

How do we find the truth about these beautiful animals with which we’ve played god, uprooting them from their native lands and turning them out to see what would happen here?

With all the monies poured into this program on behalf of one species, did anyone consider the affect upon other species who now have to co-exist in these changing times, in this changing climate, such as the bobcat, the coyote, and the fox?  What impact would the “success” of the lynx have them?

I do care. About them all.


Keep trying… keep spending… money and life… sooner or later, it’s going to work!


Sure, some will make it.  Look at the moose.  They were never here before and were dropped off and for whatever crazy unknown reason, they are currently thriving. The lynx is not as lucky, but he’s still around.

Before you support or negate this program, I would suggest you try to find the facts.  What are the numbers?  The real numbers – not those readily provided by the program.  How many were released? How many died? How much money was spent?  Where did the money come from, and where did it go?

And while you’re at it, ask them this:  why?


Success, they have called it. I suppose after all the monies and lives expended, they have to. And who has thought to question? We are all guilty of wanting this to work so badly we were willing to forgo the facts.  Now we have to ask: success for whom, and at what expense?