KDWP natural resource officer captures well-traveled animal in Barton County
GREAT BEND -- A lynx that had spent the last few weeks wandering much of western Kansas has been returned to its southwestern Colorado home range.

The wandering lynx was sighted Nov. 22 at Smoky Valley Ranch, a Nature Conservancy property located in Logan County, by Charlie Lee, extension wildlife specialist at Kansas State University. Lee at first thought it was a large bobcat but upon closer observation identified it as a lynx. Lynx closely resemble the more common and widespread bobcat but typically occupy remote, heavily-forested mountain habitats. Aware that the Colorado Division of Wildlife has an active lynx reintroduction program underway, Lee contacted officials there.

Colorado biologists drove to western Kansas to attempt to locate and capture the animal -- which was wearing a radio transmitter collar -- but were unsuccessful. Several days later, they flew over the area using a receiver to monitor the animal’s radio signal and located it in Gove County. By the next day, however, the animal had traveled to Ness County.

The cat was finally captured Sunday, Dec. 31, by Brian Hanzlick, a KDWP natural resource officer based in Great Bend.

“I got a call about 7:30 of big bobcat walking near Vets Park Lake," Hanzlick said. "I started checking the tracks in the snow, and they were just too big for a bobcat.” (Although they are only slightly larger than bobcats, lynx have longer legs and notably larger, well-furred feet.)

After contacting local zoo officials to confirm that a captive animal from the zoo had not escaped, Hanzlick continued following the tracks through the snow at Vets Park, located in northwestern Great Bend. Hanzlick eventually spotted the lynx hidden in a clump of grass and brush. Catch-pole in hand, Hanzlick slowly worked his way toward the animal. He spent more than an hour inching his way toward the cat and was finally able to loop the noose of the catch-pole around its neck, then quickly placed it in a cage and transported it to a Brit Spaugh Zoo rehabilitation facility, where it was given food and water.

The lynx remained there until Colorado Division of Wildlife officials arrived Tuesday to transport it back to the southwest Colorado habitat where it had originally been released.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife released more than 200 lynx in the remote San Juan Mountains region in the southwestern part of the state from 1999 through spring of 2006 in an attempt to restore a native species that had not been documented in Colorado in several decades. Released animals were fitted with radio collars to monitor their movements. In addition to Kansas, Colorado-released lynx have traveled into Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Montana, Idaho, Arizona, Nebraska, and Nevada.