Lynx

Order: CARNIVORA
Family: FELIDAE
Genus: FELIS
Species: lynx (canadensis)

The Canadian Lynx is one of three wild cats that are known by the common name Lynx. The others include the Spanish Lynx, which is listed as an endangered species, and the Eurasian or Northern Lynx. The Canadian Lynx is a boreal cat which historically inhabited coniferous forests of the northeastern United States, the Great Lakes, the Rocky Mountains, and the Cascade Mountains. Each of these areas are now separated from each other by habitat unsuitable for lynx populations. It’s current range overlaps and replaces the more common bobcat from the northern portion of western mountains and the Canadian border, continuing northward through out Canada and Alaska.

A full-grown lynx can weigh up to 40 pounds and measure 38-40 inches long, which is slightly smaller than a bobcat and males are slightly larger than females. They have a coat that has been described as buffy or gray colored with a few black hairs. During the summer their coat can appear to be more reddish or gray-brown. Underneath its face there is a whitish ruff with black streaks. Lynx are said to have a stooped appearance due to the fact that the cat’s hind legs are longer than the front. Similar to a bobcat, they have a “bobbed” or shorter tail but are identifiable by two striking differences. First, their characteristic ears, which have prominent tufts and secondly, the larger paws, which are twice as large as those found on a bobcat, and are covered with fur to keep it from sinking into deep snow. These enlarged feet make lynx highly adapted to hunting snowshoe hares in the deep snow. Prints are rarely clear and individual pads are difficult to discern due to the heavy fur that covers their paws. Drag marks may be observable from this fur as the paw is removed from a track and moved forward. Lynx become sexually active when 2-3 years old and give birth to young in May or June. They are nocturnal and are active all year.

Lynx feed primarily on snowshoe hares, named for their exaggerated, larger hind paws. Lynx populations are strongly associated with hare population levels, which fluctuate greatly in cycles that rise and fall approximately every 9-10 years. Lynx choose forested areas with high hare populations searching for prey. By hiding in these dense areas they are able to hide or stalk their prey. Hare will comprise most of their total diet which is supplemented by tree squirrel, mice, various bird species including grouse, and have also been known to feed on carrion. These forest carnivores are very good climbers and are known to ambush prey from trees. Like other members of the Felidae family, they will cache their prey and feed on it for several days.

 

Lynx habitat needs require a forest with tree communities of various ages and a mix of deciduous and coniferous patches. Also needed are dead and downed logs and windfalls, which provide cover for denning sites, escape from other predators, and protection from severe weather. Earlier successional forests provide suitable habitat for the main prey species the snowshoe hare. Lynx tend to avoid open areas and prefer dense cover and rocky areas commonly associated with wooded thickets. They are solitary animals and are active mostly at night, though in the winter they become more active during the day.

On March 21, 2000 the Canadian Lynx was listed as a threatened species under the endangered species act. According to the forest service a species is listed as threatened when it is likely to become endangered throughout all or a significant portion of it’s range. The majority of lynx populations inhabit land managed by the Federal Government. Within the contiguous United States, lynx populations occur at low densities, which are related to the limited availability of snowshoe hares. Lynx metapopulations in the US are part of a much lager core population of lynx in Canada. Low densities of lynx in the US are due to the natural patchyness of boreal habitat and possibly the compounding negative effects related to development and management decisions, which if harmful to snowshoe hare populations or the ability for lynx movement, will negatively effect lynx numbers.