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Winter sports and wildlife: Can Canada lynx and winter recreation share the same slope?

Posted date: June 11, 2020
Publication Year: 
2019
Authors: Miller, Sue; Olson, Lucretia E.Squires, John R.; Roberts, Elizabeth; Ivan, Jake
Publication Series: 
Science Bulletins and Newsletters
Source: Science You Can Use Bulletin, Issue 33. Fort Collins, CO: Rocky Mountain Research Station. 12 p.

Abstract

Winter recreation is a popular outdoor activity that is expected to increase in intensity due to new recreation technology and human population growth in the United States. RMRS researchers and partners studied impacts of dispersed (skiing and snowmobiling) and developed (ski areas) winter recreation on Canada lynx in Colorado. They used data from GPS devices carried by recreators to record their tracks and GPS collars to monitor movements of adult lynx to see how they overlapped. They didn’t find any consistent evidence that lynx avoided areas of low to moderate dispersed recreation. Lynx avoided some areas with high levels of motorized recreation, but regularly used areas near busy, back-country ski trails. However, they did find that lynx modified their behavior in some cases; they slowed their movement or increased time spent stationary in areas with high-intensity back-country skiing and snowmobiling. They also became more active at night in areas with high-intensity recreation. Also, importantly, environmental features such as high forest canopy cover generally separated areas selected by lynx from those selected by winter recreationists. Lynx appeared to avoid high-intensity developed ski resorts during periods of high-intensity winter recreation. It appears that lynx, at least in these study areas, do not exhibit strong avoidance patterns to dispersed recreation, but instead modified their behavior, perhaps to lower the chance of contact with recreationists and they used dense forests that were less selected by winter recreationists. Based on avoidance of the intense level of recreation found at a developed ski resort, it appears that there is a threshold of human disturbance above which lynx cannot coexist with winter recreation.

Citation

Miller, Sue; Olson, Lucretia; Squires, John; Roberts, Elizabeth; Ivan, Jake. 2019. Winter sports and wildlife: Can Canada lynx and winter recreation share the same slope? Science You Can Use Bulletin, Issue 33. Fort Collins, CO: Rocky Mountain Research Station. 12 p.