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Canada lynx living in spruce beetle impacted forests

January, 2015

Fitting a GPS collar to a Canada lynx on the Rio Grande National Forest, Colorado, 2015.
Fitting a GPS collar to a Canada lynx on the Rio Grande National Forest, Colorado, 2015.
As of 2013, a spruce beetle outbreak has impacted 85% of the mature spruce-fir forests on the Rio Grande National Forest in southwestern Colorado. The Rio Grande National Forest was also where 85% of Canada lynx were reintroduced to the state by Colorado Parks and Wildlife from 1999 - 2007.  The uncertainty of how lynx, and their primary prey snowshoe hares, will respond to insect impacts in spruce-fir forests has important management and conservation implications.  One important management question is how the timber from these insect-impacted forests can be salvaged in ways that also facilitate lynx conservation. This issue is of particular concern since climate change is expected to increase the severity of insect-related disturbance in conifer forests.  

The Rocky Mountain Research Station, in cooperation with the Rio Grande National Forest, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and the Montana State University, is investigating how lynx and snowshoe hare respond to spruce bark beetle outbreaks.  In 2015, we instrumented lynx with GPS collars that accurately documented their movements and resource use.  We will also quantify the forest structure and composition of insect-impacted areas with satellite remote-sensing and field measurements.  This research will combine understandings of how lynx use insect-impacted forests with measures of forest condition.  Research by RMRS allows for the development of forest prescriptions that facilitate timber-salvage and lynx conservation.

Principal Investigators:
Randy Ghormley - Rio Grande National Forest
Jake Ivan - Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Rick Lawrence - Montana State University