Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) - Threatened
Updates: Permit regarding State of Maine trapping program
November 4, 2014, Agencies finalize plan for Canada lynx affected by Maine's trapping programs; Maine to provide habitat in 22,000-acre lynx management area
August 5, 2014, Agencies release revised plan, assessment for protecting Canada lynx affected by Maine trapping program
Nov. 8, 2011, Wildlife agencies announce request for lynx permit, invite public to comment on draft plan for Maine trapping program
Species Description and Life History
The Canada lynx was federally listed as a threatened species in 2000. Critical habitat was designated in 2006 and revised in 2009. In 2013, the Service proposed additional revisions to critical habitat. The proposal includes about 11,162 square miles of mostly private lands in northern Maine in portions of Aroostook, Franklin, Penobscot, Piscataquis and Somerset counties. Timber harvest and management are the dominant land uses within this area. All areas proposed as critical habitat were naturally occupied bylynx when the species was listed as threatened in 2000. The proposal has not been finalized, and the Service has also estimated the costs for conservation of lynx in the revised critical habitat.
Mating occurs during March, and 1 to 7 young are born 60-65 days later in May. Maine litters produce one to four kittens. Lynx dens in Maine consist of a bed under thick regenerating fir or elevated downed logs. The female raises the kittens. Young leave the den area in late June or early July and stay with the female for a full year before leaving their mother in late winter.
Lynx are primarily nocturnal, but Maine lynx cam be active during the day. Family groups (mother and kittens) hunt together to increase efficiency. Males are solitary for most of the year except the breeding season. Size of the home range varies with snowshoe hare density, habitat, and season. In Maine, female home ranges average about 18 square miles, or the equivalent of half a township, and males occupy about a township. Home ranges overlap, and male home ranges usually encompass several female ranges.
In northern Canada and Alaska, snowshoe hare populations undergo a 10 year cycle. Lynx numbers vary with the snowshoe hare populations. Snowshoe hare populations fluctuate in Maine, and recently declined to half of that observed in the early 2000s. During periods of low prey availability, lynx may forego reproduction, experience higher mortality rates, and increase their home range sizes.
Lynx are rare at the southern edge of their range as in Maine. Populations likely fluctuate with populations of snowshoe hares and are affected by lynx populations in neighboring Canada. Decreased snowfall in recent decades gives a competitive advantage to bobcats, whose range periodically expands northward. Bobcats are more aggressive and displace lynx from their home ranges. In recent years, a few lynx have been incidentally trapped. Fishers killed several radio-collared lynx in Maine. Clearcutting is beneficial to lynx by providing large patches of young forest stands preferred by snowshoe hare. Recent trends in forest practices from large clearcuts to partial harvesting results
Habitat is widespread through northern Maine and includes large areas of young, dense stands of spruce and fir approximately 12 to 30 years after a major forest disturbance (clearcutting, fire, insect damage). These stands have dense understory vegetation that support high densities of snowshoe hares. Habitat conditions were close to ideal in Maine in the late 1990s and early 2000s as the widespread clearcuts of the 1970s and 1980s attained prime conditions for snowshoe hares. As stands mature and snowshoe hare numbers decline, lynx populations are expected to decline. Lynx habitat used today will not be prime habitat 10 or 15 years later. Careful forest planning is needed to ensure that large areas of regenerating conifers are present on the landscape to preserve populations of lynx and snowshoe hares.
Lynx are common throughout the boreal forest of Alaska and Canada. The southern portion of their range once extended into the U.S. in the Rocky Mountains, Great Lakes States, and the Northeast. Today, they are occur in the lower 48 States primarily in Montana, Washington, Maine, and Minnesota. In recent years, lynx have been documented in northern Vermont and New Hampshire. Maine’s population, believed to be several hundred animals, is contiguous with populations in southern Quebec and northern New Brunswick.
Distribution in Maine:
The Canada lynx is widely distributed throughout northern Maine (Aroostook, Franklin, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset County, and Washington Counties) wherever large areas of regenerating conifer support high landscape densities of snowshoe hares. Habitat shifts with time as stands mature and new stands are cut. Dispersing lynx may occasionally occur in central and eastern Maine, although breeding rarely occurs outside of northern Maine. Lynx habitat in Maine has been modeled by Hoving et al. (2004). Hoving et al. (2005), and Simons (2009).