Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Trekking Lynx and the 911 Fail

We recently learned about a lynx who traveled thousands of kilometres to return to Canada, only to die in a trap. Similarly, a person stranded who was denied 911 assistance died while trying to go back to civilization.

dead lynx photo op A lynx relocated to Colorado in a program to repopulate that state’s wilderness has come back to Alberta, only to die in a registered trap.

"It came at least 2,000 kilometres, wandering around feeding, cutting up valleys, crossing rivers, dodging cougars, grizzlies, wolves, eagles and other trappers," said Bryan Anger of Rocky Mountain House, Alta., the trapper who found the lynx, dead, in a registered trapline he shares with his brother an hour west of his home at Nordegg, just outside Banff National Park.

The cat, known to biologists as BC-03-M-02, was captured seven years ago near Kamloops, B.C., researchers said Friday. It was sent to Colorado as part of a reintroduction program involving 218 lynx after the species died out in the state.

For the next four years, biologists at the Colorado Division of Wildlife tracked its movements with a radio collar. The animal is shown to have fathered two litters, a set of two in 2005 and a set of four in 2006, likely with the same mate.

The collar's last recorded signal came April 20, 2007.

Then, for more than 2 1/2 years, all human contact ceased – until Jan. 28, when Anger found the animal in his trapline.

"I wasn't surprised to find a cat but I was surprised to find where it had come from," Anger said.

Anger immediately reported the find to Gabriela Yates, a PhD student running the University of Alberta's Project Lynx.

"This was huge," Yates said. "It must have crossed many highways, many rivers, probably desert – difficult habitat it is not adapted to."

Lynx rank as one of the world's most mobile land mammals, she said. On the other hand, top known travels until now have been in the 600-1,000-kilometre range.

In this case, the 9-year-old male lynx covered about 2,000 kilometres as the crow flies between Silverton, in southwestern Colorado, and Nordegg. Yates is in the third year of a four-year study assessing lynx movements in relation to its main diet, the snowshoe hare. When the hare population crashes, lynx travel widely in search of pockets of them, she said.

The migration of BC-03-M-02 adds a piece to the puzzle, suggesting a homing sense as it was found near where it was originally captured. The lynx was healthy, weighed 26 pounds and sported an excellent coat of fur, she said.

Big River, Saskatchewan – home of a significant aboriginal population – was the scene of a human tragedy. A woman with children was stranded in a car but when she called 911 no help was dispatched.

Saskatchewan RCMP extended their condolences and launched an independent investigation of their 911 system after a woman died and three others were stranded for seven days in their stuck car.

Sgt. Carole Raymond says two women and two children had been driving to Loon Lake from Prince Albert when their car got bogged down in mud and water on a poorly maintained road in a remote area near Big River.

Records indicate a person from the car called 911 on April 8 but no officers were dispatched. The person asked for a tow truck but it appears one wasn't sent, Raymond said.

On Monday, four days later, someone called police about a woman's body on the side of Highway 942.

"It appears that she walked 60 kilometres from where the vehicle was in the water to the road," Raymond said.

On Tuesday, police got a report of a missing person and they learned that the dead woman had been travelling with another woman and two children.

"The connection was made," Raymond said.

A search by both air and ground began.

On Thursday searchers spotted the mired car.

Rescuers had to use all-terrain vehicles to get to the car due to the remote, difficult terrain.

"It was wet ... it took a good 2 1/2 hours to get to them once the airplane had spotted them," she said.

Finally, about 9:30 Thursday night, a week after someone from the car made the call for help, rescuers reached the car and found the woman and two children alive. They were taken to hospital in Shellbrook where they were in stable condition.

The family has asked police not release any information on the ages or relationships of the people involved, Raymond said.

Whenever we hear about such massive failures – one has to wonder if racism did not play a role in the decision to deny emergency services to those who needed it. It is incredibly sad to face death after trying so hard to cling to life, yet both stories manage to end on a high note.

What do you think? Is there good in everything? Is every crisis an opportunity? Is the upbeat tone sometimes misplaced, but necessary in order to make news readable?

Sources / More info: lynx-2k, 911-ignored

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