15 March 2009

COLORADO COLLEEN: Bighorn Sheep & Lynx

Yesterday, on the drive from Denver to Beaver Creek, we spotted some bighorn sheep grazing along I70. Despite their camouflage, we see some of these amazing creatures almost every time we head to the mountains. My friend Darrell is an avid hunter and fly fisherman who drives to the Western Slope regularly. He pointed out that he never sees bighorn sheep as roadkill. Maybe those odd horns that resemble the headdresses of Cinderella's stepsisters have some sort of radar in them!
For years, I've been dreaming of spotting a lynx. This might seem akin to wanting to see a unicorn; but my friend Paul, who owns a place in Vail, saw one; and I trust him because he is a veterinarian. When we checked in to the Christie Lodge in Avon, I saw a lynx, alas, in a glass case as a taxidermy specimen. The lynx was killed illegally, and was thought to be one of the last ones in Colorado. But research indicates lynx are still here. Hair and scat have been collected. When I mentioned to the woman at the check-in desk that I appreciated that the lodge supports research of lynx, she mentioned that near her home in the Tennesee Mountain area, the development of a new hut was stopped because of infringement on lynx habitat. She said it was the first such stonewalling of a development project in the Vail Valley due to wildlife habitat.
For me, one of the joys of skiing is getting to terrain that unless one skis, one would never see. On the chairlift, I enjoy seeing all the animal tracks. Last time we skied Vail, we had the good fortune of seeing a red fox below, and it was vocalizing--an eerie yet thrilling sound.
It should be noted that Vail resorts advertise that they run on wind power and lead in recycling, all of which helps offset the black carbon footprint we create getting to the white stuff.

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