Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Felidae

Scientific Name: Lynx canadensis
Species Authority: Kerr, 1792
Common Name(s):
English Canada Lynx, American Lynx
French Lynx Du Canada
Spanish Lince Del Canadá, Lince Lel Canadá
Taxonomic Notes: Placed in Lynx according to genetic analysis (Johnson et al. 2006, Eizirik et al. submitted)

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Nowell, K.
Reviewer(s): Nowell, K., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Breitenmoser, U. (Cat Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Listed as Least Concern because the Canada lynx is widespread and abundant over most of its range, where it is legally harvested for the international fur trade for hundreds of years, and recent decades of managed harvests do not appear to have caused any significant decline or range loss (Mowat et al. 2000). In the southern part of its range, it is considered Endangered in New Brunswick, Canada, and of "Special Concern" in Nova Scotia (Parker 2001). In the contiguous US, it is listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act and critical habitat is being designated for conservation management (US FWS 2008).
Previously published Red List assessments:
2002 Least Concern (LC)
1996 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Throughout North America, Canada lynx are generally considered to be distributed in two broad spatial and demographic patterns. The contiguous Northern Taiga population covers most of Canada east from Newfoundland and Labrador to Alaska. The southern Boreal population consists of small, widely isolated populations south of the 49 degree parallel in the "Lower 48" states of the US, and in Canada including northwestern New Brunswick and Cape Breton island in Nova Scotia (Parker 2001). Its range is coincident with that of their main prey, the snowshoe hare Lepus americanus (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). While still occurring in 95% of their historic range in Canada (with the exception of far eastern Canada) (Poole 2003), in the contiguous United States, lynx historically occurred in 24 states (McKelvey et al. 2000), possibly ranging as far down the Rocky mountain chain to include a 25th, New Mexico (Frey 2006). Widely extirpated, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has identified six "core" areas for recovery where there is evidence of lynx reproduction within the last 20 years: northern Maine and New Hampshire; northeastern Minnesota; northwestern Montana and northeastern Idaho; the Kettle and Wedge mountain ranges of Washington state; the northern Cascade range of Washington state; and the Greater Yellowstone area of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. A reintroduced population in the southern Rocky mountains of Colorado state is another core area; 204 lynx from Canada and Alaska have been released since 1999, and there is evidence of reproduction (Nordstrom et al. 2005) and lynx have ranged up to 4,310 m, with an average elevation of 3,170 m (Wild et al. 2006). A reintroduction in northern New York state was not successful (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002).
Countries occurrence:
Canada; United States
Upper elevation limit (metres): 4310
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The Canada lynx is primarily found in Canada, where it is managed and trapped for its fur. It is considered endangered only in New Brunswick, and has been extirpated from Prince Edward Island and maiinland Nova Scotia (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Parker 2001). In the US, the Canada lynx is abundant in Alaska, but in the "Lower 48" states populations are small and threatened. Lynx were reintroduced apparently unsuccessfully in northern New York state in the late 1980s, and more recently, apparently successfully, in Colorado (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002).

In the northern parts of their range, lynx populations undergo dramatic fluctuations roughly every ten years, following apparently regular cycles of increase and decline of their primary prey, the snowshoe hare Lepus americanus, a pattern evident in lynx fur trade records dating back to the early 1800s (Nowell and Jackson 1996). In the southern parts, lynx and hares appear to maintain a relatively stable but low density (Parker 2001).

Schwartz et al. (2003) documented reduced genetic variation in lynx populations from the peripheral areas of its distribution.
Current Population Trend: Stable
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Canada lynx are found only in boreal forest, and their main prey species, the snowshoe hare Lepus americanus, depends largely on patches of sucessional growth (Buskirk et al. 2000). Hares make up 60-97% of their diet, at an average rate of one every 1-2 days (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). The lynx-hare cycle was first discovered from harvest records of the Hudson’s Bay Company dating back to the early 1800's. Numbers of snowshoe hares peak approximately every ten years in the northern part of their range, and lynx numbers follow the same pattern with a short lag, typically 1-2 years. The fluctuations can be drastic, with hare abundance reaching 2,300/km² during the peaks, and crashing to 12/km² during the lows. While the populations of many prey and predator species are cyclic and roughly synchronous in the northern latitudes, the hare-lynx correlation is particularly close (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). Three primary variables drive the cycle: vegetation quality, and both hare and lynx numbers. Historically, lynx trapping pressure also influenced the amplitude of the cycle (Gamarra and Sole 2000).

In the southern parts of their range, predator and prey communities are more diverse, and snowshoe hares are less important as prey species (Buskirk et al. 2000). Ungulates to not figure prominently in the lynx's diet other than as carrion, although they preyed on caribou calves in Newfoundland after the hare population crashed (Bergerud 1983).

Lynx home ranges average 15-50 km², although they can be much larger, and tend to be larger on the southern periphery of their geographic distribution, suggesting that these areas are marginal habitat. Average lynx densities range from 1-45 animals (including young) per 100 km², and fluctuate with hare abundance (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): In most of Canada and the US state of Alaska, trapping of Canada lynx is managed for the fur trade. Trapping can reduce lynx populations and have the greatest impact when hare populations cyclically crash. In response to concerns about over-harvest during the cyclic low of the lynx-hare cycle in the 1980s, most Canadian provinces and Alaska implemented management measures which led to reduced harvests (Mowat et al. 2000). In the early 1980 (1980-1984), an average of 35,669 Canada lynx pelts were exported from the US and Canada. That fell to in the late 1980s (1986-1989) to an average annual export of 7,360. Exports have trended lower and fluctuated less severely since then, with annual exports from 2000-2006 averaging 15,387 (UNEP-WCMC 2008). Historical information suggests that, despite minimal harvest controls for much of the last century, lynx-hare cycles have been largely stable in the northern part of their range and no permanent range decrease has been detected (Mowat et al. 2000, Poole 2003).

In eastern Canada where lynx are rare and protected, the primary threat is considered to be interspecific competition from the eastern coyote, which expanded its range into eastern North America in the last few decades (Parker 2001).

In the contiguous US, the primary threat is habitat fragmentation. Logging practices and fire suppression can reduce hare and lynx abundance. Lynx are also threatened by interspecific competition from other predators whose populations have increased in recent decades, and may be killed accidentally in snares set for other species, or on roads. Maintenance of connectivity with the abundant northern population is considered essential for recovery (Ruediger et al. 2000, Nordstrom 2005). Hybridization with bobcats has been found by genetic analysis in Minnesota (Schwartz et al. 2003).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Included on CITES Appendix II. In Canada, the national and provincial governments manage harvests by region (Govt of US 2007b), using closed seasons, quotas, limited entry and long-term trapping concessions (Nowell and Jackson 1996). In the US, trapping takes place only in Alaska, and harvest quotas are increased during periods of population increase and decreased during periods of cyclic decline (Govt of US 2007b).

The population of the contiguous US was listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2000, requiring the US government to develop a recovery plan and identify critical habitat for lynx (Nordstrom 2005). Critical habitat designations only apply to federal lands or federally funded or permitted activities on private lands, but not to private activities on private lands. This designation gives the federal government the authority to manage activities that affect the designated habitat. In February 2008, the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed a revised designation of critical habitat of 42,753 square miles of critical lynx habitat as follows:

Maine: Approximately 10,633 square miles in portions of Aroostook, Franklin, Penobscot, Piscataquis and Somerset Counties.

Minnesota: Approximately 8,226 square miles in portions of Cook, Koochiching, Lake, and St. Louis Counties, and Superior National Forest.

Northern Rocky Mountains: Approximately 11,304 square miles in portions of Boundary County in Idaho; and Flathead, Glacier, Granite, Lake, Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Missoula, Pondera, Powell and Teton Counties in Montana. This area includes the Flathead Indian Reservation, National Forest lands and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in the Garnet Resource Area.

North Cascades: Approximately 2,000 square miles in portions of Chelan and Okanogan Counties which includes BLM lands in the Spokane District.

Greater Yellowstone Area: Approximately 10,590 square miles in Gallatin, Park, Sweetgrass, Stillwater, and Carbon Counties in Montana; and Park, Teton, Fremont, Sublette, and Lincoln Counties in Wyoming.

The Kettle range of Washington state was not included due to lack of recent evidence of reproduction, and the reintroduced population of Colorado and Utah in the southern Rockies was also not included due to lack of evidence that it is self-sustaining. The designation is proposed but not final, and significantly increases a 2006 designation of 1,841 square miles of critical habitat for the lynx within the boundaries of Voyagers National Park in Minnesota, Glacier National Park in Montana, and North Cascades National Park in Washington (US FWS 2008).

To reduce accidental taking of lynx in traps set for other furbearers, the Fish and Wildlife Service has recommended various measures to trappers (e.g., avoid using hares or rabbits as bait) (Goldman and Krauze 2003).

Citation: Nowell, K. 2008. Lynx canadensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T12518A3349883. . Downloaded on 04 October 2015.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided