This fall, LightHawk partnered with the Southern Interior Land Trust (SILT), a Canadian nonprofit that works to acquire fish and wildlife habitats for habitat connectivity in British Columbia. SILT facilitates research on how lynx and bobcats move across landscapes straddling the Canada and the US border. In Washington, lynx are state-listed as endangered, while in British Columbia, they’re commercially harvested for fur. Collecting lynx and bobcat movement data is critical to improving how the cats are managed on both sides of the border, and to prioritize migration corridors to help lynx populations recover in Washington. Bobcats share summer habitat with lynx, and knowing how lynx interact with bobcats will help managers in both countries protect habitat effectively for both species.
Quickly collecting the collars and the precious movement data they contain is paramount— if winter hits before the collars are located the batteries would die and the data would be lost.
OUTCOME: With Volunteer Pilot Dave Riffle’s expert aerial backcountry navigating skills, SILT was able to pinpoint the collar locations, two of which would have likely never have been recovered otherwise due to their remote location.
Without LightHawk, our partners would have to track down the cats’ radio collars on foot and snowmobile over rugged terrain, an extremely difficult, time consuming and potentially dangerous job.
LightHawk’s Volunteer Pilots bring incredible dedicaton to conservation. Making an impact “is the greatest reward of my work with LightHawk. When we are flying missions, it is very gratifying to feel that I am making a difference right here, right now,” writes lynx mission pilot, Dave Riffle, who joined LightHawk in 2017. His dedication goes beyond flight. “SILT Executive Director, Al Peatt, and I became good friends after our LightHawk mission. He extended an invitation following the flight to join the effort to live trap, tranquilize and collar new lynx during the winter. i joined SILT’s team to ride out in a snowmobile for the daily “trap” check. Helping to collar a lynx, to feel the warmth of its fur despite the -5ºF temps, gave me a new perspective on the importance of protecting habitat and wildlife migration corridors between our two countries,” said Riffle.