A primordial heartbeat, deep and low, buried inside the great expanse of the thawing lake…
Felt within like a slow, steady drum, the Earth pulses back to life.
Ice moans, the river swells, snow is consumed, and red wind roars from the west. The redwing blackbird, blue bird and robin return.
Solstice nears again.
After the dormant season of natural withdrawal, now I too stir to life, sharing words upon awakening.
Today I share a rather unusual post.
First, an article on birth. The wild side of birth. Or perhaps, a little bit about the wilds within us all. If you’re interested, you can take a look here: www.cordmama.com.
Second, a follow up to a previous post for which many of you have asked me for a follow up. So, following is just that. (Got all that?)
An Update on the Elusive Lynx Relocation Efforts along the Upper Rio Grande
The lynx release program into the southern San Juans has been ongoing in our area for nearly twenty years by the CPW, formally the CDOW. Today this project is co-managed and funded by the USDA Forest Service. We love to look at this as a “wildlife success story,” but sadly, we see a very different side to this story, and the biggest loser is the lynx.
The lynx are not listed as an Endangered Species. Nor were the lynx ever considered native this far south. From the US Fish and Wildlife Service website: “Historically, the lynx ranged across the vast northern boreal forests from Alaska to eastern Canada, including the northernmost U.S., and extending in an increasingly patchy distribution along the coniferous forests of the Rocky Mountains as far south as Colorado. For reasons that are not completely understood, the lynx is believed to have disappeared from Colorado by 1973.”
“…There is little evidence that the original lynx population ever lived as far south as the San Juan Mountains (‘Lynx Reintroduction . . .’). According to Byrne, in Colorado’s history there have only been eighteen confirmed records of the species living in the state, and only four of those occurred after 1935, with the southern most being near Breckenridge and the last near Vail in 1973 (‘Lynx Release . . .’)… Nobody knows what caused the species to disappear from this area the first time. Before the animals completely disappeared, their numbers had dramatically dropped for no apparent reason.” From <http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=10148>
No evidence has indicated that these mountains were natural lynx territory, nor do we understand what actually caused their initial decline, but the propaganda and press have incorrectly been using the term “re-introduction” and the public has blindly agreed. And in this day and age of changing climate, global warming, whatever you want to call “the new normal,” trapping an animal in the north east of Canada, and bringing them to the “high and dry” southern Rockies… one can question the reasoning behind this program, see why this program has been struggling against all odds, and sadly understand why so many lives (the lynx) were lost in this human-induced effort.
But still, this animal has tugged at our hearts, received our support, and captured our interest with the regular use of stock photos of the precious kittens. But do we really know what is happening, what has been done, and at what price?
It is our understanding that other species released in this state eventually bring income to justify the human led venture via hunting, or rather, being hunted. Almost twenty years after the initial introduction, and how many millions of dollars later, and at the loss of how many re-located animals from their native Canada, these animals are not hunted, bring no income, and the program continues to spend.
We have lived here full time for nearly 15 years. We have seen more than many wished we would. We live gently upon the land and with the wilds (I am known for running with the wilds, not after them). So as much as I was enamored with the initial idea of having another small game predator on my mountain, we quickly turned from supporting to speaking out against the nature of this program when it became clear this was not for the success of the wilds, wildlife, or those out here connecting with the wilds, but for the success of the humans running the program from some far away desk. If the lynx survive, it will not be because of the efforts of these humans, but in spite of them. Nature is beautifully resilient.
It is reported that our county agreed to this introduction years ago, when those counties further north and more close to the natural lands the lynx once roamed refused. But has our county, or the residents, been involved, concerned, or in any way benefitted from this ongoing effort which cost the taxpayers millions of dollars? Do they even know what is going on?
For many local residents in both Creede and Lake City this project was considered a closed case and a lost cause years ago and most are unaware of any continued efforts, actions and funding. This operation has not been a part of the local community or economy, not supporting nor involving local residents. Furthermore, it is our understanding that the USDA Forest Service on a local level may also be unaware of the continued efforts and the oversight of the contract workers operating within the Forest. Who then is responsible? Who is making these decisions for which there is a great amount of money being poured out, and where is this funding coming from? And who is concerned with the comprehensive well being of the land and the wilds of the forest, and the public interest, which is intrinsically linked into the responsibilities of the Forest Service plans and actions?
Without taking the time now to site the years of noted and notable concerns with this program, the point here is to simply open your eyes to the current situations. The efforts are continuing, and at a rather large scale. Even from our limited observation base, we are aware of a crew of six trackers, and the daily back and forth by both trucks and then snowmobiles in attempt to collar a few healthy lynx. This is important to note as not all animals trapped are of course lynx, and not all lynx are in fact healthy, and thus not appropriate to collar.
This also brings up the point that we were informed by the CPW that this was a one year only effort in order that the Forest Service could trap, collar and observe the potential long term impact of the dying forest on the lynx. We know already that this so-called one-year program was in operation last year as well, though the trapping efforts were apparently not successful. And with at least one trap left behind and in place from this year’s efforts – do they intend to continue when the road becomes more travelled and the camp ground more used by fishermen, or leave the trap in a public campground and resume again next winter?
Just last week, I was finally able to walk up the road with my dog and without fear of running into the lynx trapping crew. Between the fact that a coyote had been killed for disturbing their operations, and the concerns that my dogs have been known to get in their traps for free goodies, I felt it would be best to stay away from their operations and avoid potential conflict or worse.
I walked to the well known and used campground beside the river at the far end of Brewster. It is an easy afternoon walk along the road, there and back, from my house. This is where I had camped alone in peace for two weeks at the end of hunting season last year and likely the most popular camping spot in Brewster and this far up USFS Road 520. This is also the historical location where the outpost used to be that once rented horses to help travelers get their wagons up Timber Hill. All in all, perhaps the most well know and well used location for recreation on this part of the Upper Rio Grande.
What I found in many locations around that campsite were green aspen trees and green spruce boughs cut and scattered under and around trees. One can presume this is where traps had been set all winter long. One trap still remains in the campground. It is covered by cut live spruce boughs. Cutting green trees, whole or branches, is against the policy of the USDA Forest Service. We have been told the CPW may operate “above the law,” yet leaving evidence of such activity in and around a public campground may not be of the best interests of forest users. This also goes against common sense when up to 90% of our spruce trees and a still uncertain percentage of our aspen have been lost in recent years. Look around up here – how much green do you see remaining?
This is just the latest degradation to land and wildlife observed this winter. Within the lynx program, this winter we’ve put up with dead deer hanging from trees as bait (though lynx are not known to eat dead deer – coyotes are), traps set alongside road with dead wildlife within, and of course, the infamous killing the coyote that was feeding on said bait that became a so-called nuisance to the trapping operations.
Trapping continued well into kitting season. This is the time of year mother cats are so desperate for food they once tried to follow my housecats through the cat door, and chewed on a tarp where we accidently spilled eggs another year. Furthermore, on the chance that a mama cat did fall for their bait and become stuck in a trap for 24 hours, what would happen to her newborns that need to nurse every 2 – 4 hours? One can only hope this was not the case.
…And what for? For the latest efforts, we were told trapping was for collaring and in turn for observing over the next five to ten years to see what impact the dying trees have on the lynx. Our trees have died and continue to die. Snowshoe hare eat the fresh branches of live spruce in the winter. And snowshoe hare are the mainstay of the lynx diet. You do the math. Will these collars tell us otherwise?
The saving grace here is that nature is adaptable. The survival of the lynx in their new territory will not be because of what we did, but in spite of what we do. And still, man (or woman) will take the credit.