Canada Lynx - Lynx canadensis
The Canada Lynx is a medium-sized cat (about 10 kilograms for males and 8 kilograms for females) with silver-gray to grayish-brown upperparts and a white belly and throat. Lynx have long legs and a relatively short, compact body. The total length averages approximately 92.5 centimeters for males and 89.5 centimeters for females (Foresman 2012). A facial ruff surrounds the face except directly beneath the snout. The facial ruff is longest on either side of the snout and has black markings on these longest hairs. The ears are 70 to 80 millimeters long and have a long, 30 millimeters black tuft at the end. The backs of the ears are darker than the rest of the body and have a central white spot. The feet are large and round (10 x 10 centimeters) and heavily furred (Foresman 2012). The tail is short and the tip is entirely black.
Canada Lynx are most similar to Bobcats, but differ in many respects. At a distance, Canada Lynx appear leggier and are grayer in color, with less distinctive spotting (Foresman 2012). Canada Lynx have much larger feet and longer ear tufts. In addition, the entire tail tip is black in Canada Lynx whereas in Bobcats the underside of the tail tip is white (Foresman 2012) and the back of the hind legs is black on Bobcats and a light beige color on Canada Lynx. Immature Mountain Lions may be superficially similar to Canada Lynx but have a much longer tail and body.
Western Hemisphere Range
Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations:
(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version)
Map Help and Descriptions
(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
Canada Lynx are non-migratory, but movements of 90 to 125 miles have been recorded between Montana and Canada (Hash 1990). In other areas, long distance dispersal has been reported to range from 103 to 616 kilometers (Saunders 1963, Nellis and Wetmore 1969, Brainerd 1985, Ward 1985, Brittell et al. 1989).
Canada Lynx west of the Continental Divide generally occur in subalpine forests between 1,220 and 2,150 meters in stands composed of pure lodgepole pine but also mixed stands of subalpine fir, lodgepole pine, Douglas-fir, grand fir, western larch and hardwoods (Ruediger et al. 2000). In extreme northwestern Montana, primary vegetation may include cedar-hemlock habitat types (Ruediger et al. 2000). East of the Continental Divide the subalpine forests inhabited by Canada Lynx occur at higher elevations (1,650 to 2,400 meters) and are composed mostly of subalpine fir. Secondary habitat is intermixed Englemann spruce and Douglas-fir habitat types where lodgepole pine is a major seral species (Ruediger et al. 2000). Throughout their range, shrub-steppe habitats may provide important linkage habitat between the primary habitat types described above (Reudiger et al. 2000). Typical snow conditions are important factors for Canada Lynx, with occurrence primarily in habitats that also receive relatively uniform and moderately deep snowfall amounts (total annual snowfall of 100 to 127 centimeters) (Kelsall et al. 1977). Within these habitat types, disturbances that create early successional stages such as fire, insect infestations, and timber harvest, provide foraging habitat for lynx by creating forage and cover for Snowshoe Hares, although older forests also provide habitats for Snowshoe Hares and Canada Lynx for longer periods of time than disturbance-created habitats (Ruediger et al. 2000).
Canada Lynx avoid large openings but often hunt along edges in areas of dense cover (Ruediger et al. 2000). When inactive or birthing, they occupy dens typically in hollow trees, under stumps, or in thick brush. Den sites tend to be in mature or old-growth stands with a high density of logs (Koehler 1990, Koehler and Brittell 1990). These habitats must be near or adjacent to foraging habitat because the hunting range of the female is reduced during this time (Ruediger et al. 2000).
In the South Fork Flathead, Canada Lynx were mostly located in fire-created, densely stocked young stands of lodgepole pine where Snowshoe Hares were most abundant. No locations in open or semi-open areas were observed (Koehler at al. 1979). In the Garnet Range, most were found in subalpine fir forest (Smith 1984). Denning sites are found in mature and old-growth lodgepole pine, spruce, and subalpine fir forests with a high density of logs (Koehler 1990, Koehler and Brittell 1990). Denning stands need not be large (1 to 3 hectares) but several stands should be interconnected (Koehler and Brittell 1990). Canada Lynx require cover for stalking and security, and usually do not cross openings wider than 100 meters (Koehler and Brittell 1990).
Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
- Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
How Associations Were Made
We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
- Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
- Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
- Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
- Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.
In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.
However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if
point observations were associated with that system.
Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.
The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.
Suggested Uses and Limitations
Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.
These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: mtnhp.org/requests
) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.
Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.
Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.
Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).
Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.
- Adams, R.A. 2003. Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 289 p.
- Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34. Missoula, MT.
- Foresman, K.R. 2012. Mammals of Montana. Second edition. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. 429 pp.
- Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998. Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates. Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 1302 p.
- Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young. 1999. Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32. 72 p.
- Maxell, B.A. 2000. Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species. Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1. Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana. 161 p.
- Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath. 2004. Amphibians and reptiles of Montana. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.
- Commonly Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Recently Disturbed or Modified
Shrubland, Steppe and Savanna Systems
Wetland and Riparian Systems
- Occasionally Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Recently Disturbed or Modified
Shrubland, Steppe and Savanna Systems
Wetland and Riparian Systems
The primary winter food for Canada Lynx throughout their range is the Snowshoe Hare (Lepus americanus), comprising 35 to 97% of their diet (Koehler and Aubry 1994). Red Squirrels are also an important prey item, particularly when Snowshoe Hare populations are reduced (Ruediger et al. 2000). Summer diets are not as well known but are probably more varied (Mowat et al. 2000). Canada Lynx in Montana probably prey on a wider variety of species throughout the year because of generally lower Snowshoe Hare densities and available alternate prey (Ruediger et al. 2000). Other known prey items include grouse, Northern Flying Squirrel, ground squirrels, Porcupines, Beavers, mice, voles, shrews and occasionally ungulates as prey or carrion (Reudiger et al. 2000).
Canada Lynx populations are tied to Snowshoe Hare populations and cycle with them. Snowshoe Hare populations were not thought to cycle in Montana, but recent research suggests that southern Snowshoe Hare populations do cycle, but not at the amplitude of northern populations (Hodges 2000). Southern Snowshoe Hare populations also exist at lower densities than northern populations (Koehler and Aubry 1994). Montana Canada Lynx ecology is subsequently different than those populations further north with average home ranges nearly twice the size of those found in the north (Aubrey et al. 2000). Home ranges are quite variable with increasing home range sizes during periods of low Snowshoe Hare populations (Ruediger et al. 2000). Home ranges of males are larger than that of females. Long distance dispersal movements of up to several hundred kilometers have been recorded and dispersal is common and thought to be essential for population regulation (Schwartz et. al. 2002). Population density is usually less than 10 (locally up to 20) per 100 square kilometers, depending on prey availability. Mean densities range between 2 and 9 per 100 square kilometers (McCord and Cardoza 1982).
Home range sizes in North America are large, varying from 10 to 243 square kilometers (McCord and Cardoza 1982); typical home ranges are 16 to 20 square kilometers (Quinn and Parker 1987, Butts 1992). Home range sizes vary with sex, age, population density, prey density, and method of survey and calculation (McCord and Cardoza 1982, Ward and Krebs 1985, Quinn and Parker 1987, Hatler 1988). Some researchers have reported Canada Lynx maintain single sex territories (especially males) with male territories overlapping female territories (Mech 1980, Stephenson 1986, Koehler 1987). However, others found substantial overlap between territories of both the same and opposite sexed animals (Nellis et al. 1972, Brand et al. 1976, Carbyn and Patriquin 1983, Ward and Krebs 1985). Where Canada Lynx and Bobcat are sympatric, home ranges overlap; however Bobcats are at lower elevation in winter (Smith 1984).
Canada Lynx breed through March and April. Gestation lasts 62 to 74 days with litter sizes averaging 3 or 4. Males do not help rear the young. Adult females produce one litter every 1 to 2 years and the young stay with their mother until next mating season or longer. Some females give birth as yearlings, particularly during years with high Snowshoe Hare populations, but their pregnancy rate is lower than that of older females (Brainerd 1985). Prey scarcity suppresses breeding and may result in mortality of nearly all young (Brand and Keith 1979). In Alberta, reproduction fell 38% (ovulation rates, pregnancy rates and litter size) and mortality of kittens reached 95% during cyclic Snowshoe Hare population lows (Brand and Keith 1979).
On March 24, 2000, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Canada Lynx as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act (USFWS 2000). Critical Habitat was initially designated in 2006 with revisions in 2009 and 2014, generally covering the boreal forests of northwestern Montana and the area around the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (USFWS 2014). Additional information on the species' management and areas designated as Critical Habitat can be found on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Canada Lynx web page
or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Environmental Conservation Online System Species Profile
Canada Lynx are classified as a furbearer in Montana, but the trapping season is currently closed. Accidentally trapped Canada Lynx that are uninjured must be released immediately and the incident must be reported to a designated Fish, Wildlife & Parks employee within five (5) days of release. Trappers that accidentally capture a Canada Lynx that cannot be released uninjured must notify a designated Fish, Wildlife & Parks employee residing in the trapping district where the animal was taken within 24 hours to arrange collection of the animal. It is unlawful for any person to retain possession of an incidentally taken furbearer per MCA 87-1-102.
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View Online Publication
- Aubry, K.B., G.M. Koehler, J.R. Squires. 2000. Ecology of Canada Lynx in Southern Boreal Forests. In: Ruggiero, L.F., K.B Aubry, S.W. Buskirk, Et Al., Eds. The Scientific Basis for Lynx Conservation in the Contiguous United States. General Technical Repor
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- Brand, C.J., L.B. Keith and C.A. Fischer. 1976. Lynx responses to changing snowshoe hare densities in central Alberta. Journal of Wildlife Management 40(3):416-428.
- Brittell, J.D., R.J. Poelker, S.J. Sweeney, and G.M. Koehler. 1989. Native cats of Washington. Section III: Lynx. Olympia, WA: Washington Department of Wildlife. 169 pp.
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- Koehler, G.M. and K.B. Aubry. 1994. Lynx. In: Ruggiero, L. F., K.B. Aubrey, S.W. Buskirk, L.J. Lyon and W.J. Zielinski, eds. The scientific basis for conserving forest carnivores: American marten, fisher, lynx and wolverine in the western United States. pp. 74-98. U.S. Forest Service General Technical Report RM-254.
- Koehler, G.M., M.G. Hornocker, and H.S. Hash. 1979. Lynx movements and habitat use in Montana. Canadian Field-Naturalist 93:441-442.
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- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2014. Endangered and Threatened wildlife and plants; revised designation of Critical Habitat for the contiguous United States Distinct Population Segment of the Canada Lynx and revised Distinct Population Segment boundary; final rule. Federal Register 79 (177): 54782-54846.
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- Additional ReferencesLegend: View Online Publication
Do you know of a citation we're missing?
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