Canada Lynx

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Canada Lynx

Lynx canadensis

ListedMarch 24, 2000
DescriptionBoreal cat with tufted ears and large paws.
HabitatUpper elevation mixed coniferous forests.
FoodSnowshoe hare or red squirrels.
ReproductionDens in woody debris.
ThreatsFragmentation, loss of habitat and trapping.
RangeColorado, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming; Canada


The Canada lynx, commonly referred to simply as lynx, is a medium sized cat weighing 22 lbs (10 kg) and measuring 33.5 in (85 cm) in length from head to tail if male and 19 lbs (8.5 kg) and 32 in (82 cm) if female.

The lynx can be distinguished from the closely related bobcat by the long tufts on the ears, more solid coat, and large, well-furred paws that have twice the surface areas as those of the bobcat. The legs of a lynx are also longer, with hind legs longer than the front legs, giving it a stooped look. The long legs and large feet are adapted to make it easier to hunt in the snow, which is not habitat for the bobcat. Both cats have a black-tipped tail, but the tail of the bobcat only has color on the top of the tip.


Lynx will disperse long distances from core populations to find suitable habitat. Once habitat is found, some populations will remain for long periods of time.

Home range varies from 3-300 sq mi (8-800 sq km) depending upon gender, abundance of prey, season, density of snowshoe hare populations, and location. Home ranges tend to be bigger in the contiguous United States than in Canada.

Downed logs and windfalls are used to provide sites for dens that provide security and thermal cover for kittens. The critical factor in finding adequate denning habitat lies not in the age of the forest, but in the amount of downed woody debris.

Lynx are specialized predators that rely primarily on snowshoe hare, secondarily on red squirrels, but will prey on other small mammals and birds when hare populations decline. They are adapted to hunt in snowy habitats, where the hare is most commonly found. When snowshoe hare populations are low, recruitment of young into the lynx population seems to cease.


Lynx reside primarily in southern boreal forests of the United States and the taiga (northern boreal forests) of Alaska and Canada, in areas that receive deep snow, for which they are highly adapted.

There are four major forest types that the lynx have adapted to in the United States including: mixed forest-coniferous forest-tundra in the Northeast, deciduous-coniferous forests in the Great Lakes, and Rocky Mountain conifer forests and Douglas-fir forests in the Northern and Southern Rockies and Cascades. Associates include a variety of spruce, fir, hemlock, pine and eastern deciduous trees.

Suitable habitat for lynx depends primarily on the population of snowshoe hare. Hare need forested habitat with a fair amount of understory vegetation, which ranges from early successional forests to mature forests with adequate openings in the canopy. There must also be downed woody habitat for lynx to use for denning.


It is difficult to ascertain historic range and populations of lynx due to a lack of reliable data. Data has been collected via trapping records, incidental reports and observations. None of the sources are reliable due to the possibility of errors or mistakes. Trapping records have often been the source of data on lynx populations, but many states listed lynx and bobcats together. Also, the data can be skewed based on the number and vigor of the trappers.

Historic range in the 1800s and early 1900s includes Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming in the United States.

There are four major regions in the contiguous United States where lynx populations currently exist or habitat type is appropriatethe Cascade and Rocky Mountain Ranges in the West, the western Great Lakes Region in the Midwest, and along the Appalachian Mountain Range in Northeastern Region. The majority of the lynx range is in Canada and Alaska due to the fragmentation of the southern boreal forests of the contiguous United States.

In the Northeast Region, lynx occurs in western Maine, south through northern New Hampshire, with spotty habitat in Vermont, the Adirondacks of northern New York, and Pennsylvania at elevations of 820-2,460 ft (250-750 m).

In the Great Lakes region, habitat is found in northeastern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and the western portion of Michigan's upper peninsula.

The Northern Rocky Mountain/Cascades Region habitat occurs in Montana, Idaho, eastern Washington, Utah, Oregon and Wyoming at 4,920-6,560 ft (1,500-2,000 m) elevation.

In the Southern Rocky Region lynx habitat occurs in Colorado at 4,100-12,300 ft (1,250-3,750 m) elevation.

Surveys to determine whether existing populations do indeed occur, and if so, how many, are still being conducted nation-wide.

Habitats that are contiguous with Canada, such as Washington, Montana and Maine are the most likely to have existing populations, and most likely to sustain future populations of lynx.


Threats to the Canada lynx include fragmentation, loss of habitat, trapping and loss of suitable prey populations.

Fragmentation due to activities such as timber harvest, fire suppression, road building and conversion of forest land to agriculture are all major impacts to the forest habitats which lynx require and threaten the viability of the remaining patches of forest to sustain wildlife.

Both lynx and snowshoe hare do not favor forests with reduced cover, large, unusable forest openings, and large monotypic stands that timber harvest creates. Mechanically thinning densely stocked stands can reduce the stem densities that snowshoe hare require.

In addition, reducing cone-bearing mature and older forests decreases habitat for the other main prey, the red squirrel.

Roads threaten lynx by allowing human access to previously undisturbed forests, resulting in mortality due to shooting, trapping, and being hit by motorized vehicles. There are no regulations against trapping in many states.

Fragmentation has also reduced and degraded the corridors for movement between Canada and the Unites States, making it difficult for the lynx to disperse and recolonize in places where habitat was degraded or lost.

Impacts to snowshoe hare population are primarily timber harvest, road building, and fire suppression, which have altered habitat and allowed for the entry of competition. Packed snow corridors created by snowmobiles, skis and roads make it easier for competing predators such as bobcats, coyotes, mountain lions, fishers, great-horned owls, and goshawks to hunt in lynx territory. Habitat fragmentation may give generalist predators a better advantage as well.

Conservation and Recovery

Conservation measures have been taken by the U. S. Forest Service and U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In February 2000, they signed a Lynx Conservation Agreement to promote conservation of habitat on lands managed by the Forest Service. With this measure, agencies agreed to coordinate conservation and planning efforts and use the best science and information to make decisions.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife has made attempts to reintroduce lynx to what was deemed suitable habitat in the Adirondacks (1988-1990) and Colorado (1991).

In 1999, the first in a three-year study of lynx distribution was conducted in the Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountains, Great Lakes and Northeastern parts of the country.


U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Ecological Services Field Office
100 N. Park Avenue, Suite 320
Helena, Montana 59601-6287
Telephone: (406) 449-5225
Fax: (406) 449-5339


United States Department of the Interior. 24 March 2000. "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Determination of Threatened Status for the Contiguous U. S. Distinct Population Segment of the Canada Lynx and Related Rule; Final Rule." Federal Register 65 (58):16052-16086.

United Stated Department of Agriculture Forest Service General Technician Report. "The Scientific Basis for Lynx Conservation: Qualified Insights." RMRS-GTR-30. 1999.

Waldmire, R. "Government Decides Lynx Not Worthy of Additional Protection." Predator Project News. Fall 1994.

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Canada Lynx

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