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Photo credit: Keith Williams

Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) | ESA status: threatened

Canada lynx

Canada lynx are iconic wild cats of high-elevation, boreal, subalpine, and hardwood forests in North America. These gorgeous felines are well known to scores of ecology students, who study their specialized predator-prey relationship with snowshoe hares.

The lynx is a medium-sized cat (19 to 22 pounds) with long legs, large paws, long tufts on its ears, and a short, black-tipped tail.

Male lynx establish territories that typically encompass the ranges of multiple females and vary in size from 10 to almost 100 square miles, depending on habitat quality and prey availability. Females give birth in spring to one to four kittens with beautiful, icy blue eyes. Kittens stay with their mother for the first year while they learn to hunt.

The lynx is often confused with the more widely ranging bobcat (Lynx rufus). The lynx is slightly larger than the bobcat, has grayish (rather than reddish) fur, less-prominent spots, and a shorter tail. Bobcats also lack the lynx’s conspicuously long ear tufts.

Canada lynx diet

Lynx are heavily dependent on snowshoe hares. Both species are strongly associated with high-elevation forests that have cold, snowy winters. Lynx have acute hearing, and their large, furry paws act as snowshoes, allowing the cats to track and capture the swift snowshoe hares in deep snow. These same qualities also give the lynx a competitive advantage over other predators, such as coyotes, foxes, and bobcats.

What are the threats to Canada lynx?

Snowshoe hares prefer young forests with brushy understories, while lynx need old-growth forests with downed trees for denning and raising young. Forests comprising young and old growth, or “matrix forests,” are uncommon, and are threatened by logging, unnatural fire, and climate change.

Intensive trapping has depleted lynx populations. Habitat loss and degradation have confined the species to limited areas in the lower 48 states (the Northeast, Upper Great Lakes, the Northern Rocky Mountains, the Kettle and Wedge mountain ranges in Washington, the North Cascades and the Southern Rocky Mountains).

What WildEarth Guardians is doing to protect the Canada lynx

Canada lynx were federally protected as a “threatened” species in 14 states in 2000. New Mexico was originally not included on the list, but as a result of efforts by Guardians and partners, lynx are now protected wherever they are found. Guardians and partners continue to fight for critical habitat designation for lynx in the southern Rockies. We are also working to remove deadly traps and pesticides from the landscape so lynx will be free to safely roam.

Historical Significant Actions

Guardians and partners file a 60-day notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failure to consult on the effects of deadly pesticides used to kill predators December 2016

Washington State lists lynx as “State Endangered” December 2016

The Montana District Court orders the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reexamine critical habitat designation that excludes the southern Rockies September 2016

Idaho ordered to restrict trapping to protect lynx January 2016

Montana restricts trapping to protect lynx July 2015

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service extends ESA protection to lynx wherever they are found and designates revised critical habitat for the contiguous United States DPS of lynx September 2014

Guardians submits a 60-day notice of intent to sue for violating Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act when revising critical habitat for the contiguous U.S. DPS of Canada lynx September 2014

Guardians and partners file a lawsuit against Idaho Governor to halt trapping in the State impacting rare lynx June 2014

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to revise the boundary of the U.S. Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of Canada lynx to include them wherever they occur, and proposes revised critical habitat designation for the U.S. DPS  September 2013

New Mexico population of Canada lynx included in landmark settlement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service May 2011

WildEarth Guardians files suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to list the lynx in New Mexico September 2010

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finds that amending the listing of the Canada lynx to include the New Mexico population is “warranted but precluded” by other priorities December 2009

WildEarth Guardians and partners settle their lawsuit against U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with a guaranteed deadline on petition finding December 2008

WildEarth Guardians and partners sue U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its failure to issue a finding on petition April 2008

WildEarth Guardians, Western Environmental Law Center, and partners submit petition to protect lynx in New Mexico under the ESA August 2007