Canadian lynx are short-tailed, long-legged wildcats. Though similar in appearance to bobcats, lynx may appear taller because of their long legs. The weight of lynx is similar to that of bobcat - about 20 to 30 pounds - but some bobcat males can be considerably bigger. Many people assume lynx are bigger animals, probably due to their thick furs and large feet, but large northern bobcats outweigh the largest lynx. Ear tufts are longer on lynx, and they have a solid black-tipped tail, compared to the black-topped, white-bottomed tail on bobcats. Also the lynx's tail is tawny gray with a black tip, whereas the bobcat's tail has narrow black bands and a black tip. Lynx are tawny gray, sometimes with faint spots on their inner legs. Both their gray-brown faces and light gray ear tufts are edged with black. The cats' large eyes and ears give them excellent sight and hearing.
Like most other cats, lynx have retractable claws for capturing prey, fighting and climbing. In winter, their large feet act like snowshoes, enabling the cats to walk easily on the surface of deep snow. Dense, coarse hair that grows on their paws in winter also increases the snowshoe effect and helps keep their feet warm.
Since lynx are solitary, nocturnal animals that avoid people, they are seldom seen and little is known about their everyday habits. Lynx can live within close proximity to humans, but human actions often result in lynx deaths. The cats are quite susceptible to hunting, trapping and being hit by cars.
Snowshoe hares are lynx's primary food. Lynx also eat red squirrel, other small mammals and some birds, including grouse. Sometimes they consume larger animals that have died from other causes. The lynx's summer diet is more varied than the winter diet.
Lynx are not fast runners. The cats rely more on stealth than speed for capturing prey; they will ambush prey from a concealed spot beside a well used animal trail. Biologists estimate that for every animal a lynx captures, it misses ten. On average, a lynx kills every other night, eating 150-200 hares a year.
Lynx are able to breed when one year old, and may do so especially if there is a good supply of hares. Often they do not breed until their second year.
Lynx maintain territories which may overlap, but they are solitary animals and avoid contact. They seek company only in order to mate. In the Upper Great Lakes region, male lynx's territories range in size from 56-94 square miles and females' from 20-54 square miles. Thus, there can be several females within a male's territory and he may mate with more than one.
Once they have mated in late January or February, the male and female go their separate ways. The male takes no part in rearing young. About 60-65 days after mating, the female gives birth to 1-4 kits in a den she has selected in a hollow tree, log or brush pile. The kits are blind until 8-10 days old. Their fur is spotted, but the spots disappear when they shed their natal coat later in the spring. The female travels with her young until mid- winter, then drives them away as the next denning season approaches.
Lynx populations rise and fall in response to the periodic "boom and bust" population cycles of snowshoe hares. When hares are abundant, more lynx survive to reproduce and their numbers increase. When hare populations crash, about every 10 years, many lynx die of starvation. Although lynx continue to breed during crash years, females have difficulty supporting both themselves and their young on a reduced food supply; few kits survive. Adults may migrate to other regions in search of food. During these years, lynx have been known to move from Canada into Wisconsin via Minnesota.
The distribution of the Canada lynx closely follows the distribution of its main food, the snowshoe hare, which inhabits boreal forests. Thus, lynx formerly lived in most forested areas of north-central and northeastern North America, and extended south along the Rocky Mountains to central Colorado. Human actions, mainly overtrapping, have reduced lynx populations throughout much of the species' former range.
Breeding populations of lynx presently exist in Canada, Alaska, Montana and Idaho, and perhaps in Washington, Minnesota, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. It is unknown whether lynx are breeding in Wisconsin. Most lynx in the state are thought to be migrants from Canada. Click the small map to the left to view lynx observations by county, circa 1976-1984.
History in Wisconsin
Canadian lynx have never been common in Wisconsin. Northern Wisconsin forms the southern edge of their historic range. A breeding population may have existed in the state, but declined as trappers caught lynx for the fur trade and loggers and settlers destroyed the northern forests. In addition, lynx suffered from the prevailing prejudice against predators. Beginning in 1865, a state-financed bounty encouraged the killing of lynx. It is thought that by the early 1900s, lynx no longer bred in Wisconsin. However, the bounty was not lifted until 1957.
Since 1900, lynx sightings in Wisconsin have correlated directly with the 10 year cycles of snowshoe hares in Canada. When snowshoe hare populations crash, lynx migrate south through Minnesota into Wisconsin. Lynx carcasses have been found as far south as Sauk, Green Lake and Vernon counties during these years.
In 1972, the Canada lynx was placed on the Wisconsin Endangered Species List. Little is known about the present status of Canada lynx in Wisconsin. Although lynx are seen occasionally, no breeding has been documented in the state. The lynx was delisted in Wisconsin as of August 1, 1997.
The Canada lynx was listed as a "Protected Wild Animal" in 1998. Please see Administrative Rule NR 10.02 (exit DNR) for more information. In 2000 the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service classified all lynx living south of Canada as Threatened Species (refer to their Canada lynx information page (exit DNR) for information).
Research and Management
Lynx are one of several rare mammals for which the DNR collects reports of observations . Annually the DNR and volunteers conduct several snow track surveys for forest carnivores. These surveys focus on gray wolf, American marten, and furbearers, but are also conducted to search for rare carnivores such as lynx. While no specific management plan is being enacted, biologists recommend that large tracts of northern forest be maintained to enable the survival of Canada lynx and other forest carnivores in Wisconsin. Increased human access in forests remains a significant threat to the future of lynx in the state. Access increases the likelihood that lynx will encounter people, resulting in more lynx deaths by intentional and unintentional shooting, trapping and being hit by cars. Because lynx deaths are frequently caused by people, public education is also important to the survival of lynx in Wisconsin. .
What You Can Do
Wisconsin citizens are encouraged to become informed about Canada lynx and to support endangered resources work by contributing to the Endangered Resources Fund on their Wisconsin income tax form or giving directly to the Bureau of Endangered Resources.
People also are invited to participate in the DNR's Trapper Alert Program. The Trapper Alert Program informs trappers that if they do capture a Canada lynx or other endangered species, they should notify their local DNR wildlife manager, who will assist them in releasing the animal. The trapper will not be prosecuted and no questions will be asked. Through the Trapper Alert Program, trappers help DNR researchers monitor populations of endangered species and gain important information about individual animals. If you are interested in searching for lynx, you can participate in volunteer carnivore track surveys. If you observe lynx in the wild, you are encouraged to report such observations to the DNR.
|Canada Lynx - Lynx canadensis
|Scientific Name: Lynx canadensis Kerr, 1792
Common Names: Canada Lynx, Canadian Lynx, American Lynx; [French] Lynx du Canada; [Spanish] Lince del Canadá, Lince del Canadá
Felis lynx canadensis (Kerr, 1792)
Lynx lynx canadensis