Internet-famous Colorado lynx died of a throat tumor | SkyHiNews.com
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Internet-famous Colorado lynx died of a throat tumor

A lynx that was found dead on a ski slope Jan. 8 at the Purgatory Ski Resort died of natural causes, Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced Wednesday, Jan. 18. The lynx was seen by dozens of people at the ski area and a video of the cat was viewed on social media nearly 1 million times.

A necropsy of the 11-year-old male found a tumor in the animal's throat that prevented it from eating. Although not common, tumors are found in wildlife.

While the news was greeted with regret by many people, this lynx is symbolic of the success of CPW's reintroduction program.

"The cat lived a long life in the wild and spent it's time in some of Colorado's most incredible backcountry," said Scott Wait, senior terrestrial biologist for CPW's southwest region. Wait was involved with the reintroduction from the start and continues to work on long-term monitoring efforts.

Lynx from Canada and Alaska were transplanted to Colorado starting in 1999. Most were released near the Weminuche Wilderness in southwest Colorado. The area was chosen because it contains few roads compared with other areas in the state. All the cats that were released were fitted with radio collars and tracked by researchers. This allowed CPW to monitor them, watch for mortalities, find their dens and locate newborn kittens. A microchip was implanted into all the kittens ‒ the same type pet veterinarians use ‒ so that researchers could identify the animals later if they were found.

To the delight of biologists, a chip was found in this lynx and it revealed the cat was born in the Bear Creek area near Telluride in 2005. The cat's mother was one of the original lynx released in the reintroduction program. A record number of lynx dens, 16, were found that year by CPW biologists.

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In 2009, the cat was captured as part of a research effort and fitted with a GPS collar which revealed that it was living in the remote area between Telluride, Rico and the Purgatory ski area. The collar eventually fell off the animal.

"The lynx lived in what is the best type of habitat for its species, high elevation and thick spruce-fir forest. This shows that much of Colorado's high country is suitable lynx habitat," Wait said.