Canadian Lynx: Wikis


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Canadian Lynx[1]
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Lynx
Species: L. canadensis
Binomial name
Lynx canadensis
Kerr, 1792

The Canadian Lynx (Lynx canadensis) is a North American mammal of the cat family, Felidae. It is a close relative of the Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx). Some authorities regard both as conspecific. However, in some characteristics the Canadian Lynx is more like the Bobcat (Lynx rufus) than the Eurasian Lynx. With the recognized subspecies, it ranges across Canada and into Alaska as well as some parts of the northern United States.

With a dense silvery-brown coat, ruffed face and tufted ears, the Canadian Lynx resembles the other species of the mid-sized Lynx genus. It is larger than the bobcat, with whom it shares parts of its range, and over twice the size of the domestic cat.



There had been debates over whether to classify this species as Lynx canadensis or Felis canadensis, part of a wider issue regarding whether the four species of Lynx should be given their own genus, or be placed as a subgenus of Felis.[3][4] The Lynx genus is now accepted. Johnson et al. report that Lynx shared a clade with the Puma, leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), and domestic cat (Felis) lineages, dated to 7.15 Ma; Lynx diverged first, approximately 3.24 Ma. (There are significant confidence intervals for both figures.)[5]


Three subspecies of the Canadian Lynx are currently recognized:

  • L. canadensis canadensis
  • L. canadensis mollipilosus
  • L. canadensis subsolanus:[1] The Newfoundland Lynx is a subspecies of the Canadian Lynx. It is larger than the mainland subspecies. This animal is known to have killed caribou calves when snowshoe hares were not available.

Physical characteristics

Canadian Lynx
Canadian Lynx

The appearance of the Canadian Lynx is similar to that of the Eurasian Lynx: the dense fur is silvery brown and may bear blackish markings. The Canadian is rather smaller than its Eurasian cousin, at an average size of 11 kg (24 lbs), 80–105 cm (36 in) in length and a shoulder height of 60 cm (24 in). Males are larger than females. Although the species is larger on average than the Bobcat, it is less variable in size and the largest Northern Bobcats outsize the lynx.[6] In summer, its coat takes on a more reddish brown color. This lynx has a furry ruff which resembles a double-pointed beard, a short tail with a black tip and long furry tufts on its ears. Its long legs with broad furred feet aid the Canadian Lynx in traveling through deep snow. The lynx also has 28 teeth, with four long canines for puncturing and gripping. The lynx can feel where it is biting the prey with its canines because they are heavily laced with nerves. Using these powerful canines for their hunting, the lynx needs huge muscles to wield the canines which decreases the space in the mouth and getting rid of cheek teeth in the lynx. The lynx also has four carnassials that cut the meat into small pieces. In order for the lynx to use its carnassials, it must chew the meat with its head to its side. The jaw of the lynx also has large spaces in between the four canines and the rest of the teeth, due to losing some of their premolars. This ensures that the bite of the lynx goes as deeply as possible into its prey. [7]


The Canadian Lynx is a solitary and secretive crepuscular animal, mostly active in the early morning and at dusk. Lynx tend to sleep during the day and are moderately active at night. Although solitary, at times small groups may be observed traveling together. The lynx roam about one and a half to three miles each day, and thus require a large territory. When food becomes scarce, the lynx territory will increase; most of the population will roam far, with a select few staying behind in their original territory. The cat tends to stay within 100 yards of the treeline, but does not shy away from swimming. One account records a lynx swimming two miles across the extremely cold Yukon River.[8]

Hunting and diet

The Canadian lynx hunts for hares, rodents, birds and will sometimes hunt larger prey such as deer. It relies mainly on hearing and sight to locate prey. In some areas the snowshoe hare is the only source of prey for the Canadian Lynx. The size of the Canadian Lynx population tends to run parallel to the 10 year long rise and decline of hare's numbers. In some instances, however, the lynx will rely on other prey, such as deer, while the hare population grows. The lynx will hunt every one to two days and consume around a pound and half of food. If food is scarce and the lynx comes upon a large number of prey, it may go on a spree, killing as many prey as possible, then storing the kills. Canadian lynx do not have stamina: whilst they are fast in short distances, they lack the ability to keep up speed past more than a few feet; instead, they use their large ears and eyes to seek out prey. If the lynx does not catch its prey within the first few seconds, it will generally give up the chase to conserve energy. If the lynx kills or scavenges a larger animal that it cannot consume all in one sitting, it will drag it to a hiding area such as a bush or under a rock and then will cover the dead animal with leaves and return to consume it later. Females and her cubs have been seen to hunt together in coordinated attacks. While one lynx will scare the prey out of the hiding place, the other two are ready to attack a short distance away. Other animals use the lynx to hunt as well. The Great horned owl will station itself above the lynx and wait for the lynx to flush the prey out of its hiding place. The owl will then attack and capture the prey before the lynx can get to it. Lynx often travel great distances to find food and a mate, sometimes up to 5 miles a day. They are also ambush predators remaining in a single place for hours waiting for prey. The Canadian lynx can detect prey using hearing up to 250 feet away.

Reproduction and life cycle

Mating between lynxes begins with the female leaving some of her urine where the male has marked his territory. She then screams until the male mates with her (similar to the behavior of domestic cats). The female waits for the male to mount her when she is at the peak of her cycle, which can occur six times in one hour. The female lynx will only mate with one male each season, even though it might be multiple times. The male may mate with multiple females. Generally, the lynx species have their litters in late May or early June, giving birth to one to six cubs. Female Canadian Lynx use maternal dens, usually in very thick brush, and typically inside thickets of shrubs or trees or woody debris. The dens are generally situated mid-slope and face south or southwest. When the cubs are newborn they are blind for the first ten days, and when their eyes open, they are a bright blue color. Eventually, as they mature, the eyes become a brown-hazel color. The mother brings the food to her cubs and allows them to play with it before eating it, thus training their hunting skills.[9]

Distribution and habitat

This cat is found in northern forests across almost all of Canada and Alaska. In addition there are large populations of this lynx in Montana, Vermont, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon and a resident population exists in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming that extends into the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.[10] The Canadian Lynx is rare in Utah, Minnesota, and New England; reintroduction efforts in Colorado have been ongoing since 1999, with the first wild-born kittens confirmed in 2003, with many successful kindles thereafter. The Canadian Lynx is a threatened species in the contiguous United States. It is also found in the Medicine Bow National Forest.


In the United States, prior to 1999, lynx were known to occur only in Alaska, Washington state, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and possibly in Michigan. Starting in 1999, the Colorado Division of Wildlife began a program reintroducing a wild lynx population back to Colorado. While showing early signs of promise, biologists say it will take more than a decade to determine whether the program is a success. However, in 2006 the first case of a native-born Colorado lynx giving birth since 1999 was documented: it gave birth to 2 kittens, affirming the possibility of successful reintroduction.

In 2007 several of these lynx were shot and killed by unknown persons. In some cases only the radio tracking collars were found, leading to suspicions of fur poaching, in other cases the animals were shot and the body left intact.[11]

Cycle of lynx abundance

In the northern parts of Canada, its population can be estimated from the records kept from the number caught each year for its fur. Records have been kept by the Hudson's Bay Company and Canadian government since the 1730s.[12] A graph of its abundance is characterized by huge rises and falls with the peaks occurring at a level typically ten times higher than the troughs and about 5 years after them, and the process then reversing itself.

This lynx is a specialist predator, eating snowshoe hare almost exclusively when they are available. The population variation of the lynx and the hare is an example of a predator-prey cycle. Environmental factors such as weather and forest plant growth that may affect this population variation have been studied. A number of other species that are unrelated to either animal, as far as food chains are concerned, show population cycles of similar lengths.[citation needed] These include abundance of Atlantic salmon, chinch bugs in Illinois, the tent caterpillar, the coyote, hawk owl eggs, grouse, martens, minks, the muskrat, the fisher and hawks.


The Canadian Lynx is trapped for its fur and has declined in many areas due to habitat loss, and the IUCN lists them as Least Concern.[2] On 24 March 2000, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service issued its Final Rule, which designated the Canadian Lynx a Threatened Species in the lower 48 states.[13][14]. Canadian Lynx-Bobcat hybrids have also been detected at the southern periphery of the current population range for lynx (Maine, Minnesota and New Brunswick)[15][16] which may limit their recovery in the south.


  1. ^ a b Wozencraft, W. C. (16 November 2005). Wilson, D. E., and Reeder, D. M. (eds). ed. Mammal Species of the World (3rd edition ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 541. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. 
  2. ^ a b Nowell, K. (2008). Lynx canadensis. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 22 March 2009. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
  3. ^ Zielinski, William J; Kuceradate, Thomas E (1998). American Marten, Fisher, Lynx, and Wolverine: Survey Methods for Their Detection. DIANE Publishing. pp. 77–8. ISBN 0788136283. 
  4. ^ Carron Meaney; Gary P. Beauvais (September 2004). "Species Assessment for Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis) in Wyoming" (PDF). United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  5. ^ Johnson, W.E., Eizirik, E., Pecon-Slattery, J., Murphy, W.J., Antunes, A., Teeling, E. & O'Brien, S.J. (2006). "The Late Miocene radiation of modern Felidae: A genetic assessment". Science 3 (5757): 73–77. doi:10.1126/science.1122277. PMID 16400146. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Macdonald, David W. (1993). Velvet claw a natural history of the carnivores. New York: Parkwest: BBC Books. pp. 47–50. ISBN 0-563-20844-9. 
  8. ^ Kobalenko, Jerry (1997). Forest cats of North America cougars, bobcats, lynx. Willowdale, Ont: Firefly Books. ISBN 1-55209-172-4. 
  9. ^ Slough, BG (1999). (abstract) "Characteristics of Canada Lynx, Lynx canadensis, Maternal Dens and Denning Habitat". Canadian Field-Naturalist 113 (4): 605=608. (abstract). Retrieved 2007-07-23. 
  10. ^ Potter, Tiffany (2004-04-13). "Reproduction of Canada Lynx Discovered in Yellowstone". Nature: Year in Review. National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 
  11. ^ Bronski, P (June 2007). "Environment - Missing Lynx". 5280 Magazine. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  12. ^ Weinstein, MS (1977). (abstract) "Hares, Lynx, and Trappers". The American Naturalist 111 (980): 806–808. doi:10.1086/283212. (abstract). Retrieved 2007-07-23. 
  13. ^ 65 Federal Register 16051 16086
  14. ^ Canada Lynx - U.S. FWS
  15. ^ Homyack, J.A., et al. (2008) Canada Lynx-Bobcat (Lynx canadensis x L.rufus) hybrids at the southern periphery of lynx range in Maine, Minnesota and New Brunswick. Am. Midl. Nat. 159, 504-508. doi:10.1674/0003-0031(2008)159[504:CLLCLR]2.0.CO;2
  16. ^ Schwartz, M.K., et al. (2004) Hybridization between Canada Lynx and Bobcats: Genetic results and management implications. Conserv. Genet. 5, 349-355 doi:10.1023/B:COGE.0000031141.47148.8b

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