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Canada lynx

Photo of a Canada lynx by the USFWS

Scientific name: Lynx canadensis

Status: Threatned 

Ctitical Habitat: Designated 

Listing Activity: The Canada lynx was listed as a threatened species in March 2000 (65 FR 16051). Critical was designated in November 2006. A recovery plan has not been published.

Potential Range Map


  • Historic Status and Current Trends

    Due to a lack of data, the historic and current status of resident lynx populations in Oregon is uncertain. Museum specimens exist from seven counties in Oregon. There are also at least 247 bounty records of lynx from 12 counties in the state. There are 72 recent (post-1985) lynx sighting reports in Oregon, including one specimen shot in 1993. Recent observations of lynx are primarily from the Cascade Range and the Blue Mountains.

    Description and Life History

    The Canada lynx is a medium-sized cat with long legs, large, well- furred paws, long black tufts on the ears, and a short, entirely black-tipped tail. Adult males average 22 pounds and 33.5 inches in length (head to tail), and females average 19 pounds and 32 inches long. The lynx's long legs and large feet make it highly adapted to hunting in deep snow. The bobcat (Lynx rufus), a North American relative of the Canada lynx, has smaller paws, shorter ear tufts, a more spotted coat, and only the top of the tail tip is black. The paws of the lynx have twice the surface area of those of the bobcat. The lynx also differs in its body proportions in comparison to the bobcat. Lynx have longer legs, with hind legs that are longer than the front legs, giving the lynx a "stooped" appearance. Bobcats are largely restricted to habitats where deep snows do not accumulate. Natural hybridization between lynx and bobcat is unknown.

    Canada lynx inhabit montane coniferous forests. Canada lynx are specialized predators that are highly dependent on the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) for food, but also eat alternate prey such as squirrels and grouse. Snowshoe hare prefer diverse, early successional forests with dense stands of conifers and shrubby understories that provide food, cover to escape from predators, and protection during extreme weather. Lynx usually concentrate their winter foraging activities in areas where hare activity is high.


    Canada lynx den in forests with large woody debris, such as downed logs and windfalls, to provide denning sites with security and thermal cover for kittens. In Washington, lynx used lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), spruce (Picea spp.), and subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) forests older than 200 years for denning. Based on information from the western United States, sites selected for denning also must provide for minimal disturbance by humans and proximity to foraging habitat (early successional forests), with denning stands at least one hectare (2.5 acres) in size. Intermediate-age forests allow for lynx access between den sites and foraging areas, movement within home ranges, and random foraging opportunities.

    Reasons for Decline

    The contiguous United States population segment of the Canada lynx is threatened by human alteration of forests (logging, thinning, and fire suppression), low numbers as a result of past over-hunting, expansion of the range of competitors, such as bobcats and coyotes, and more human intrusion into lynx habitat (roads, trails, off-road vehicles and snowmobiles).

    Conservation Measures

    An interagency lynx coordination effort was initiated in March 1998. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service participated in this effort. Three products important to the conservation of lynx on federally managed lands were produced through this effort: (1 "The Scientific Basis for Lynx Conservation" (Ruggiero et. al. 2000); (2 the Lynx Conservation Assessment and Strategy (August, 2000); and, based on information presented in these two documents, (3) a Lynx Conservation Agreement between the USDA Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This agreement identifies actions the agencies will take to reduce or eliminate adverse effects or risks to lynx and their habitat, and to maintain the ecosystems on which lynx depend.

    References and Links

    Carreker, R.G. 1985. Habitat suitability index models: snowshoe hare. Western Energy and Land Use Team. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Report 82(10.101). Fort Collins, CO.

    Koehler, G.M. 1990. Demographic and habitat characteristics of lynx and snowshoe hares in north-central Washington. Canadian Journal of Zoology 68:845-851.

    Koehler, G.M. and D.J. Brittel. 1990. Managing spruce-fir habitat for lynx and snowshoe hares. Journal of Forestry 88(10):10-14.

    Ruediger, B., J. Claar, S. Gniadek, B. Holt, L. Lewis, S. Mighton, B. Naney, G. Patton, T. Rinaldi, J. Trick, A. Vandehey, F. Wahl, N. Warren, D. Wenger, and A. Williamson. 2000. Canada lynx conservation assessment and strategy. USDA Forest Service, USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, USDI Bureau of Land Management, and USDI National Park Service. Missoula, MT.

    Ruggiero, L.F., K.B. Aubrey, S.W. Burskirk, L.L. Jack, W.J. Zielinski, J. Williams, eds. 2000. The scientific basis for conserving forest carnivores: American marten, fisher, lynx and worverine in the western United States. USFS Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, GTR RM-254. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2003. Notice of Remanded Determination of Status for the Contiguous United States Distinct Population Segment of Canada Lynx. Federal Register. 68:40076.

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