NATURAL HISTORY

CANADA LYNX } Lynx canadensis
FAMILY: Felidae

DESCRIPTION: Canada lynx are medium-sized felines with long legs; large, furry paws; long, black ear tufts; and a short, black-tipped tail. Adult males usually weight about 22 pounds and reach about 34 feet in length; females are about 19 pounds and 32 inches long.

HABITAT: In the contiguous United States, the lynx is associated with southern boreal forest — subalpine coniferous forest in the West and coniferous/deciduous forest in the East. Within these forest types, lynx are most likely to be found in areas with deep snow.

RANGE: The contiguous U.S. distinct population segment of Canada lynx inhabits the forests of four regions: the Northeast, the Great Lakes, the northern Rocky Mountains/Cascades, and the southern Rocky Mountains. In the lower 48 states, the lynx resides in Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

MIGRATION: Documented lynx home ranges vary from eight to 700 square kilometers, with range size dependent upon the animal’s gender, the abundance of prey, the season, and the density of lynx populations.

BREEDING: Mating occurs during February or March each year, with kittens — usually four — born 60 to 65 days later. Kittens are reared by the female and resemble those of the domestic cat.

LIFE CYCLE: Female kits may breed for the first time as they approach one year of age, depending on food abundance and individual physical condition. The life span of both sexes usually falls between 10 and 20 years.

FEEDING: The main prey animal of the Canada lynx is the snowshoe hare. Lynx will sometimes eat other small mammals and birds, particularly when hare populations decline.

THREATS: Major threats to the Canada lynx today are habitat destruction due to deforestation and fire suppression and trapping, as well as global warming. Snowmobiling in remaining lynx habitat is a serious and increasing threat, and the species is also hurt by expansion of the range of competing predators such as bobcats and coyotes.

POPULATION TREND: The Canada lynx’s complex life history and population dynamics — as well as a general lack of reliable data — make estimating the species’ population trend difficult, but it is known that the lynx occurs in drastically reduced numbers throughout its range. Populations are thought to have been in decline since the early 1900s.

Photo courtesy Wash. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife