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Canada lynx

 

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Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis)

Click here to read the Canada Lynx fact sheet

Description

The Canada lynx is a mid-sized boreal forest carnivore that occurs across most of northern North America. At 75-90 centimeters (30-35 inches) long, weighing 6-14 kilograms (about 15-30 pounds), and with grizzled gray fur, lynx are similar to bobcats (Lynx rufus) in size and appearance. The lynx’s exceptionally large paws, long, black ear tufts, and short, black-tipped tail distinguish it from the more common bobcat. With its large feet and long hind legs, the lynx is highly adapted to hunting its primary prey, the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), in deep, powdery snow."

Habitat

Lynx and snowshoe hares are strongly associated with moist, cool, boreal spruce-fir forests. Landscapes with high snowshoe hare densities are optimal for lynx survival and reproduction, and research suggests that hare densities consistently at or above 0.5 hares per hectare (0.2 hares/acre) are needed to support persistent lynx populations. Hares are most abundant in young regenerating or mature multi-storied forests with dense understory vegetation that provides food and cover. In the northern contiguous U.S. (i.e., the Lower 48 States), boreal forests become naturally patchy and marginal for lynx as they transition to temperate forest types that support lower hare densities. Such forests cannot support lynx populations, even though snowshoe hares may still be present. Snow also influences lynx distribution, and populations typically occur where continuous snow cover lasts four months or longer. Such areas are believed to provide lynx with a seasonal competitive advantage over other terrestrial hare predators like bobcats and coyotes (Canis latrans).

Distribution

Lynx are broadly distributed across most of Canada and Alaska, which combined encompass about 98% of the species breeding range. The contiguous U.S. distinct population segment (DPS) accounts for the other 2% and includes resident breeding populations in northern Maine, northeastern Minnesota, northwestern Montana/northern Idaho, and north-central Washington. An introduced population also occurs in western Colorado, and several other areas may have historically supported small resident populations (e.g., northern New Hampshire, Isle Royale, Michigan, northeastern Washington, and the Greater Yellowstone area of southwestern Montana and northwestern Wyoming). Lynx also have occurred temporarily in many other states, typically during irruptions (mass dispersal events) from Canada when northern hare populations underwent dramatic cyclic declines roughly every 10 years.

Status

The Contiguous U.S. DPS of lynx was listed at threatened in 2000 because regulations on some Federal lands at that time were inadequate to ensure the conservation of lynx populations and habitats.


Recent actions & links »

On January 11, 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced the completion of a scientific review of the Canada lynx in the contiguous United States. The review concludes that the Canada lynx may no longer warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and should be considered for delisting due to recovery. This recommendation is the result of an extensive review of the best available scientific information and almost 20 years of working in partnership with state, federal, tribal, industry and other land managers on the conservation of this species. As a result of this status review, the Service will begin development of a proposed rule to delist the species.


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Species Status Assessment (SSA) »

Click here to read the Final Species Status Assessment


January 2018: Final Species Status Assessment (SSA) Report Released

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced the availability of the final SSA report for the Contiguous U.S. Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the Canada lynx.  The SSA compiles the best available scientific information regarding the historical, current, and potential future conditions for lynx in the lower 48 states.  It evaluates the DPS's viability considering climate change, forest management and related regulations, wildland fire management, and other potential sources of habitat loss and fragmentation.  The report incorporates the formally-elicited opinions of recognized lynx experts from throughout the DPS range regarding the current and future status of, potential threats to, and likely viability of resident lynx populations in the DPS.

Final Species Status Assessment Appendices


October 2015: Canada Lynx Expert Elicitation Workshop

The purpose of this report is to convey the results of an expert workshop convened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) in October 2015 to improve our understanding of the status of the contiguous U.S. distinct population segment (DPS) of Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis). This workshop was held in conjunction with a species status assessment (SSA) for the DPS.

The workshop was organized by a Lynx SSA Team consisting of Service and USGS staff who have developed and piloted implementation of the SSA framework, and Service biologists who are working on lynx throughout the range of the DPS. In the interest of collaboration and transparency, this team partnered with State agencies, other Federal agencies, and academic researchers to elicit expert input regarding the current and likely future status of lynx populations within the DPS.

Lnyx Expert Elicitation Workshop Presentations


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Recovery »

In response to a June 2014 Court Order to complete a recovery plan for lynx by January of 2018, or make a determination that a recovery plan is not necessary, the Service completed a Species Status Assessment (SSA) for the lynx DPS (see above). The SSA provides the scientific underpinnings for the Service's recently-completed 5-year review (see below), which determined that the DPS may no longer meet the ESA's definition of a threatened species and recommends, therefore, that the DPS be considered for delisting due to recovery. Based on the 5-year review, the Service determined, in accordance with section 4(f)(1) of the ESA, that a recovery plan is not necessary at this time.

2005 Canada Lynx Recovery Outline


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5-year review »

January 11, 2018: 5-Year Review Indicates Canada Lynx Recovery in the Lower 48 States

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced the completion of a scientific review of the Canada lynx in the contiguous United States. The review concludes that the Canada lynx may no longer warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and should be considered for delisting due to recovery. This recommendation is the result of an extensive review of the best available scientific information and almost 20 years of working in partnership with State, Federal, Tribal, industry and other land managers on the conservation of this species. As a result of this status review, the Service will begin development of a proposed rule to delist the species.


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Critical habitat »

September 12, 2014: The Service revised Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for the contiguous United States distinct population segment (DPS) of Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis). The Service finalized both a revised critical habitat designation for the lynx DPS and a revised definition for what constitutes the range of the DPS – the portion of the species’ North American range in which lynx are protected by the Act.


September 25, 2013: The Service announced a proposal to revise the critical habitat designation for the Contiguous United States Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the Canada lynx. The Service previously listed the lynx as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (Act)in 2000 and designated critical habitat for the species in 2006, which was revised in 2009. This current revision was undertaken to address two court orders resulting from litigation over the 2009 critical habitat designation. The Service also proposes to revise the definition of the lynx DPS to ensure that all lynx in the contiguous United States are protected under the Act. The Service is accepting public comment on this action until December 26, 2013. More information can be found at http://www.regulations.gov, Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2013-0101.


February 24, 2009: The Fish and Wildlife Service announced a final revised critical habitat designation for the Canada lynx in the contiguous United States. Approximately 39,000 square miles of critical habitat were designated in five units in the states of Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Wyoming.


February 28, 2008: The Service proposed to designate approximately 42,753 square miles of habitat in portions of northern Maine, northeastern Minnesota, the Northern Rocky Mountains (northwestern Montana and northeastern Idaho), the Northern Cascades (north-central Washington), and the Greater Yellowstone Area (southwestern Montana and northwestern Wyoming).

The Service announced publication of a Notice of Availability of the Draft Economic Analysis and Draft Environmental Assessment.


Two draft conservation agreements were also provided for public comment:


In addition, the Service provided maps representing potential changes that may be incorporated into the final critical habitat designation for Canada lynx. The potential changes to the map boundaries are the result of new information provided to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during the public comment period, February 28, 2008 to April 28, 2008, and during our consideration of comments submitted. Potential map changes reflect new information about lynx habitat condition and distribution. Changes also reflect areas that the U.S. Forest Service has identified as being important for lynx during their planning process.


The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed revising the amount of critical habitat designated for the Canada lynx. In total, the Service proposed to designate approximately 42,753 square miles of habitat in portions of northern Maine, northeastern Minnesota, the Northern Rocky Mountains (northwestern Montana and northeastern Idaho), the Northern Cascades (north-central Washington), and the Greater Yellowstone Area (southwestern Montana and northwestern Wyoming). The public was invited to comment on all aspects of the proposed rule.

Maps of Proposed Critical Habitat Areas:


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Listing decision »

On March 24, 2000, the contiguous United States population of the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. In 2003, in response to a court-order to reconsider the listing, the Service clarified its final listing decision.

2000 Listing decision documents:


2003 Clarification of final listing decision documents:


January 2007: Federal Register notice: Clarification of Significant Portion of the Range for the Contiguous United States Distinct Population Segment of the Canada - 72 FR 1186-1189 (January 10, 2007)


December 2008: Service to Conduct Status Review on the Need to Revise the 2000 Canada Lynx Listing to Include New Mexico

Following an initial review of a petition to revise the listing of Canada lynx to include the mountains of north-central New Mexico, the Fish and Wildlife Service will undertake a review to determine if animals in New Mexico – believed to be dispersers from the State of Colorado reintroduction efforts - should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. The Service is seeking information regarding the status and distribution of the Canada lynx, including impacts or potential impacts to the species resulting from either human activities or natural causes. Public comments will be accepted until February 17, 2008. For more information, please see the Federal Register Notice.


December 2009: The Service announced on December 17, 2009, that changing the boundaries of the Endangered Species Act listing for the Canada lynx to include the State of New Mexico is warranted; however, the action is precluded at this time by the need to complete other listing actions of a higher priority.


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ESA consultations »


Multimedia »

This public domain material is provided courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.



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News Releases & Federal Register Archives »


Miscellaneous »


Contact us »

For questions or comments about Canada lynx, contact:

    Email: FW6_Lynx@fws.gov

    Regular mail:
    Lynx
    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
    585 Shepard Way, Suite 1
    Helena, Montana  59601

    Phone: (406) 449-5225

For questions or issues with this webpage, contact: christina_stone@fws.gov


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The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: October 11, 2019
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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