Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis)
Today, lynx are listed as Threatened under the ESA in all of the lower 48 states where they are known to occur. Their populations are especially vulnerable in Maine, Minnesota, Washington, and in Colorado, where they were recently reintroduced.
Northern states including CO, ID, ME, MI, MN, MT, NH, NY, OR, UT, VT, WA, WI, WY (esp. mountainous regions, and also in Canada’s boreal forests). Listed as a candidate species in NM. Maine has the only breeding population in the eastern U.S.
Unknown, but probably fewer than 2,000 lynx remain in the lower 48 states.
Canada lynx have large feet covered with thick fur that creates a natural
snowshoe, allowing the cat to walk on top of deep, fluffy snow. This
gives them an advantage over other predators, such as bobcats and
coyotes, when hunting their main prey, the snowshoe hare.
Canada lynx numbers have declined throughout most of their range in the lower 48 states due to overtrapping as well as habitat loss and fragmentation from logging, fire suppression, road construction, recreational developments and urbanization. Other factors that have affected lynx numbers in the contiguous United States include highway mortalities, snow compaction from recreation, and genetic isolation from populations in Canada.
Lynx represent an iconic and important predator species of wild northern climates. Lynx are unlikely to persist in small, isolated refugia. Because lynx populations appear to need extensive areas of contiguous suitable habitat they help make the case for protecting large and connected areas.
Lynx numbers are closely tied to their species' prey, snowshoe hare, which in turn is a keystone species for lynx. Hare numbers are closely tied to habitat. To the extent that lynx regulate hare populations and vice versa, both species play an important role as indicators of the robustness of biodiversity of northern forest environments.
Water in the Balance
Canada lynx are especially vulnerable to global warming-related water loss. In order to maintain a competitive advantage over other predators, the species depends on high elevation habitat with cold, snowy winters. As temperatures rise with global warming, the snowpack and forests that lynx rely on are predicted to move upward in altitude and northward in latitude. As their habitat shifts, lynx populations in the U.S. will likely become more isolated and smaller, jeopardizing genetic sustainability. Protecting habitat at higher elevations as well as important corridors linking those areas is just as critical as protecting current Canada lynx habitat in order to ensure the longterm survival of the species.
In addition to global warming, lynx populations in the U.S. are imperiled by habitat loss, e.g., due to logging, development, mining and mountaintop alteration. In Maine, for instance, a law was passed in 2012 to downgread water qualitly standards in order to expedite open pit mining and hundreds of miles of ridgetop habitat are being altered for construction of grid-scale wind power turbines.
What You Can Do
The Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife is evaluating adding the lynx to the state's endangered species list. Supporting this increased conservation status and opposing trapping in Canada lynx habitat can help to ensure its continued survival. Find out more at www.restore.org.