The first live lynx captured in the state in decades has been returned to the wild, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced Monday.
"A once-in-a-career opportunity in the state of Michigan just took place,” said DNR wildlife technician Don Brown, who helped bring the animal north last week.
After a Sanilac County farmer notified the department that an "easily approachable" lynx had been feeding on his domesticated geese, the animal was trapped in Harbor Beach last month and moved to the Howell Nature Center's Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic to evaluate its health, officials said.
The cat was verified to be a Canada lynx, which are listed as a threatened species in Michigan. They typically are found in boreal spruce-fir forests in Canada and Alaska.
“Lynx are more likely to be seen in the Upper Peninsula, with the most recent verified sighting on Sugar Island in 2010,” said Dan Kennedy, endangered species coordinator with the DNR.
After staying in Howell, the 4-foot, 18-pound female cat, believed to be less than a year old, was transferred to the Detroit Zoological Society and treated for a foot wound, parasites and dehydration, the DNR said.
“The lynx was well-cared for while at our facility,” said Randi Meyerson, deputy chief life sciences officer at the society. "We were happy to play a role in restoring her to good health so she could be returned to the wild.”
After gaining more than a pound eating rabbits and quail, the cat was transported north about 400 miles before DNR wildlife biologists Cody Norton and John DePue released her Friday near a stand of pine trees in central Schoolcraft County.
“It’s been acting like a normal, healthy cat,” Norton said.
The pair brought the lynx to an area with abundant food sources such as snowshoe hare and beaver. It's also remote and has large, contiguous blocks of public lands and little human development, the DNR said.