FWS Focus

Overview

Characteristics
Overview

The Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) is a mid-sized boreal forest carnivore that occurs across most of northern North America. In the contiguous United States, Canada lynx were designated as a distinct population segment and listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2000. This was due solely to the inadequacy, at that time, of regulatory mechanisms on federal public lands, where most potential lynx habitat occurs. Federal land management plans at that time were deemed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be inadequate to ensure the conservation of lynx populations and habitats. In all regions within the distinct population segment range, timber harvest, recreation and their related activities are the predominant land uses with the potential to affect lynx habitats and populations.

We at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been working with federal land managers across the distinct population segment range since Canada lynx were first granted protection under the Endangered Species Act. This includes coordinating with land managers and the lynx research community to formally amend management plans and implement science-based conservation measures to conserve the species and its habitats. We’ve also been coordinating with tribal nations, state agencies and private landowners to conserve lynx and hare habitats and populations.

Scientific Name

Lynx canadensis
Common Name
Canadian Lynx
Canada lynx
lynx
FWS Category
Mammals
Kingdom

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Species

Identification Numbers

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Characteristics

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Food

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Food

 

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Behavior

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Behavior

 

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Life Cycle

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Reproduction
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Life Cycle
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Habitat

Characteristics
Habitat

Lynx occur broadly across most of Canada and Alaska, where their distribution is closely associated with the boreal spruce-fir forest ecosystem known as the taiga. Forests with boreal features extend south into the contiguous United States in the boreal/hardwood forest ecotone in northern New England and the western Great Lakes region, and the subalpine forests along the North Cascade and Rocky Mountain ranges in the western United States. Populations of this species are likely to persist in areas across this geography that are characterized by deep snow and dense horizontal forest cover that support adequate densities of snowshoe hares.

Forest

A dense growth of trees and underbrush covering a large tract.

Characteristic category

Physical Characteristics

Characteristics
Size & Shape

With grizzled gray fur, lynx are similar to bobcats (Lynx rufus) in size and appearance. 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. These adaptations likely provide lynx a seasonal competitive advantage over other terrestrial predators of hares. The lynx’s exceptionally large paws, long hind legs, long black ear tufts and short, black-tipped tail distinguish it from the bobcat, which is much more common than lynx outside of Alaska, in the contiguous 48 states.

MeasurementsLength: 30 to 35 in (75 to 90 cm)

Weight

Canada lynx weigh roughly 15 to 30 pounds (6 to 14 kilograms).

Geography

Characteristics
Range

Currently, the lynx distinct population segment includes resident breeding populations in northern Maine/northern New Hampshire, northeastern Minnesota, northwestern Montana/northern Idaho, north-central Washington and western Colorado. Other areas including Michigan’s Isle Royale and Washington’s Kettle Mountains. The Greater Yellowstone Area of Wyoming historically may have supported small resident or naturally ephemeral lynx populations as well. Lynx also have occurred intermittently and temporarily in many other states that lack sufficient habitats, typically during irruptions, or mass dispersal events, of lynx from Canada into the lower 48 states, when northern hare populations underwent dramatic cyclic declines roughly every 10 years.

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