DENVER — Some elusive and charismatic lynx have been parading past awe-struck Colorado residents and visitors this winter, electrifying social media and giving biologists reason to smile.

One of the rare, fluffy-looking cats strolled nonchalantly across the Purgatory resort in southwestern Colorado last week, threading through a crowd of skiers and snowboarders who swerved around the animal and stopped to take videos.

Two weeks earlier, a pair of lynx loped along a mountain highway feet from Dontje Hildebrand’s car.

“My heart just about busted out of my chest when I realized what I was seeing,” said Hildebrand, who was driving over Molas Pass, about 15 miles north of the Purgatory resort, when he came upon a female lynx and her kitten.

Between 50 and 250 lynx live in the wild in Colorado, mostly in the southwestern corner of the state, biologists say. That’s down from previous estimates of 200 to 300, but officials cite better calculations, not a population decline.

They are protected under the Endangered Species Act in the contiguous 48 states.

Lynx virtually disappeared from Colorado by the 1970s because of hunting, poisoning and development. The state brought them back starting in 1999, transplanting lynx from Canada and Alaska.

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