As I was driving to Lily Lake the other day, a bobcat dashed in front of our car. It’s always a treat to see any of the wild cats, because more than any other animal, the wild cats of the Rocky Mountains are more elusive than any other. There are three wild cats that make their home here — the bobcat, the lynx, and the mountain lion. I have been lucky enough to see a bobcat several times, including one right after we moved into our house. I was cleaning around the living room and caught sight of something on our front porch. At first, I thought it was one of the neighbor’s cats, but after I went to the window and looked out, I realized that in fact, it was a bobcat sitting right on our front porch! I watched as it sprung across the property and hid behind a tree. It is amazing how fleet of foot these cats are, yet in the quietest way possible.
Colorado State Parks and Wildlife says there are among 3000 mountain lions living in the state, yet we see rarely ever see one. When I first started working as a Park Ranger, I heard a saying — “For every one we see, one hundred have seen us.” I believe that, as there have been many times I was hiking near dusk, and sensed something was nearby, but could never quite locate that “something.” Our neighbors actually filmed one about 40 feet off their deck, so we know they are out there, which makes me always wary of taking the dogs out at night.
But far and away the rarest of the wild cats is the Canada lynx. As the name implies, they are far more numerous in the northern U.S. and Canada, but historically they did range throughout the Rocky Mountains including Colorado. For reasons unknown, by the mid-1970s, the lynx appeared to be extinct in Colorado and was listed on the endangered species list. In 1999, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife reintroduced the lynx in Colorado, and they estimate there are now 200 to 300 lynx in the state. The photo above was taken last year by a Park Service employee on Route 550, the Million Dollar Highway, where he caught not one, but two lynx crossing the road.