At a Glance
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.
Range: Northern Cascades, Northern and Southern Rockies, Greater Yellowstone Area, Northern Great Lakes, Northern New England, Alaska and Canada.
Habitat Type: High elevation spruce-fir forests with cold, snowy winters.
Primary Diet: Snowshoe hares and other small mammals.
Estimated Population: Unknown, but probably only about 1,000 lynx remain in the lower 48 states.
States with Current Habitat
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.
Today, lynx are listed as Threatened 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.
Threats related to Global Warming
Canada lynx are especially vulnerable to global warming. In order to maintain a competitive advantage over other predators, this 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 upward in elevation, current lynx populations will likely become more isolated. Thus, 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 long-term survival of the species.
Center for Native Ecosystems has long been a champion for lynx in the Southern Rockies region. The organization helped build public support for lynx reintroduction in the region, challenges high-impact development projects in lynx habitat that would irreversibly fragment or damage the habitat, and works to press the responsible state and federal agencies to adequately protect lynx habitat, especially in light of global warming.
Defenders of Wildlife has worked to restore the lynx throughout its range in the lower-48 states, by leading the efforts to list them as a Threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 2000, and to secure the designation of more than 25 million acres of Critical Habitat for lynx from Maine to Washington state in 2009.