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The Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228



June 30, 1998

Gary Patton (Colorado) 303-275-2370
Lori Nordstrom (Montana) 406-449-5225 ext. 208
Reed Harris (Utah) 801-524-5001 ext. 126
Mike Long (Wyoming) 307-772-2374 ext 34
Diane Katzenberger 303-236-7917 ext 408
Hugh Vickery 202-208-5634


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed today to list the Canada lynx as threatened under the Endangered Species Act while including a special rule that will allow for taking and interstate transport of lawfully obtained captive-bred lynx.

The proposal, expected to be published later this week in the Federal Register, is part of a settlement between the Service and 15 non-governmental organizations closing a series of lawsuits and legal actions regarding the lynx dating back to 1991. The action opens a public comment period, which will allow the public to comment on the proposal and the Service to solicit scientific peer review. The comment period closes on September 30, 1998.

In proposing to classify the lynx as threatened, the Service determined that the species is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

In the proposed rule, the Service cited a number of causes for the decline of lynx populations. These include: loss or modification of habitat; over trapping; inadequate regulatory mechanisms to protect habitat; increased human access to suitable habitat; and human-induced changes in habitat that have allowed other species such as bobcats and coyotes to move into lynx habitat and compete with them. Timber harvest, road construction, development of skiing facilities, and urban sprawl also have affected the species.

The proposal would allow for taking lawfully obtained captive-bred lynx and for interstate transport and commerce in skins that are properly tagged with a valid export tag under the Convention for International Trade in Threatened and Endangered Species, which the Service administers in the United States.

The Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis), the only lynx in North America, is a secretive forest-dwelling cat of northern latitudes and high mountains. It feeds primarily on small mammals and birds, and is especially dependent on snowshoe hare for prey. It was historically found throughout much of Canada, the forests of northern tier States, and subalpine forests of the central and southern Rockies.

The lynx is a medium-sized cat, similar to the bobcat, but appears somewhat larger. It has longer hind legs and very large well-furred paws, adaptations to the deep winter snows typical throughout its range. It also has unique long tufts on the ears and a short, black-tipped tail.

Canada lynx are considered to have historically resided in 16 of the contiguous United States. The Service believes that historical lynx observations, trapping records, and other documented evidence in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado confirm lynx as a resident species in those 16 States. At present, the Service believes resident populations of Canada lynx occur only in Maine, Montana, Washington, and possibly Minnesota.

In the eastern states, lynx live in forests that are transitional between boreal/coniferous and northern deciduous forests. In the western States they live in subalpine/coniferous forests of mixed age and structural classes. Mature forests with downed logs and windfalls provide cover for denning sites, escape, and protection from severe weather. Early successional forest stages provide habitat for the lynx’s primary prey, the snowshoe hare. The home range of a lynx can be up to 100 square miles. They are capable of moving extremely long distances in search of food.

Lynx are highly dependent on snowshoe hare, but when hare populations drop lynx also prey on other small mammals and birds. This change in diet causes sudden drops in the productivity of adult females and survival of young.

The publication of a proposed rule in the Federal Register initiates a public comment period which will expire on September 30, 1998. Comments should be postmarked by September 30, 1998 and mailed to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Lynx), 100 North Park, Suite 320, Helena, Montana 59604. In particular, comments will be sought on data concerning threats to the species, range, distribution and population size of the species, and current or planned activities that may impact the species. In addition, information will be sought regarding the promulgation of a special rule to provide States and Tribes the opportunity to maintain the lead role in protection, management, and recovery of the species through the voluntary development and implementation of a conservation plan. Potential activities to be addressed in such a plan may include trapping and hunting programs that target species other than the lynx, forest management, road construction, maintenance and use, and recreational development. Approved conservation plans would authorize the non deliberate or non purposeful take of lynx incidental to otherwise lawful State or Tribal activities.

Public hearings will be held during this period at appropriate locations throughout the current range of the contiguous United States populations of the Canada lynx. Time and locations of public hearings are announced in the Federal Register. Further announcements will be made through local media.

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