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Canada lynx Lynx canadensis
ESA status: threatened, candidate in NM
Canada lynx are an iconic wild cat of high elevation, boreal, subalpine, and hardwood forests in North America. This gorgeous feline is well known to scores of ecology students who study its specialized predator-prey relationship with snowshoe hares. Intensive trapping has depleted lynx populations and habitat loss and degradation have confined the species to limited areas in the lower 48 states (the Northeast, Upper Great Lakes, the Northern Rocky Mountains, the Kettle and Wedge mountain ranges in Washington, the North Cascades and the Southern Rocky Mountains). Now federally protected, Canada lynx have a chance at recovery—but only where Endangered Species Act protections apply.
The lynx is a medium-sized cat (19-22 pounds) with long legs, large paws, long tufts on the ears, and a short, black-tipped tail. The lynx is often confused with the more widely ranging bobcat (Lynx rufus). The lynx is slightly larger than the bobcat, has grayish (rather than reddish) fur, less prominent spots, and a shorter tail. Bobcats also lack the lynx’s conspicuously long ear tufts.
Male lynx establish territories that typically encompass the ranges of multiple females and vary in size from 10 to almost 100 square miles, depending on habitat quality and prey availability. Females typically give birth to 1-4 kittens in spring that have beautiful, icy blue eyes. Kittens stay with their mother for the first year while they learn to hunt.
Lynx are heavily dependent on snowshoe hares. Both species are strongly associated with high elevation forests that have cold, snowy winters. Lynx have acute hearing, and their large, furry paws act as snowshoes, allowing the cat to track and capture the swift snowshoe hare in deep snow. These same qualities also give the lynx a competitive advantage over other predators, such as coyote, fox and bobcat. Hares use young forests with brushy understories, while lynx need old-growth forests with downed trees for denning and raising young. These matrix forest types are uncommon, threatened by logging and unnatural fire, and now face a new threat in climate change.
Canada lynx were federally protected as a “threatened” species in 14 states in 2000. Perhaps 1,000 lynx exist in the lower 48 states. Unfortunately, New Mexico was not included on the list. Any lynx that already occurs in the state, or which might migrate from Colorado, is not protected under the Endangered Species Act. This has hindered lynx conservation in New Mexico. In 2007, WildEarth Guardians and partners, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to add New Mexico to the list of protected states. The FWS eventually agreed with petitioners that lynx should be protected in New Mexico, but that adding the state to the list was precluded by other, higher priorities.
The FWS has also designated critical habitat for lynx in parts of the Northern Rockies, North Cascades, Upper Great Lakes (Minnesota) and the Northeast (Maine), totaling 25 million acres. Surprisingly, the agency did not designate critical habitat in Montana, Idaho, or Colorado, where the species is making a strong recovery. Recent litigation has forced the agency to reconsider designating additional critical habitat in these states.
- Significant Actions
- August 2007 - WildEarth Guardians, Western Environmental Law Center, and partners submit petition to protect lynx in New Mexico under the ESA
- April 2008 - WildEarth Guardians and partners sue U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its failure to issue a finding on petition
- December 2008 - WildEarth Guardians and partners settle their lawsuit against U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with a guaranteed deadline on petition finding
- December 2009 - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finds that amending the listing of the Canada lynx to include the New Mexico population is "warranted but precluded" by other priorities
- September 2010 - WildEarth Guardians files suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to list the lynx in New Mexico
- May 2011 - New Mexico population of Canada lynx included in landmark settlement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- September 2013 - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to revise the boundary of the U.S. Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of Canada lynx to include them wherever they occur, and proposes revised critical habitat designation for the U.S. DPS
- June 2014 - Guardians and Allies file a lawsuit against Idaho Governor to halt trapping in the State impacting rare lynx
- September 2014 - Sixty-day notice of intent to sue for violating Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act when revising critical habitat for the contiguous U.S. distinct population segment of Canada lynx
- August 2014 - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designating revised critical habitat for the contiguous United States distinct population segment of the Canada lynx
- Press Releases
- August 1, 2007 - "Conservationists File Petition to Protect Lynx in New Mexico"
- April 21, 2008 - "Lynx in New Mexico in Legal Limbo"
- December 1, 2008 - "Lynx in New Mexico Soon to Escape Legal Limbo"
- October 28, 2009 - "Conservation Groups Join State Agency to Offer $4,800 Reward for Information on Killing of Canada Lynx"
- December 17, 2009 - "Lynx in New Mexico Warrant Listing But Remain in Legal Limbo"
- September 27, 2010 - "Groups Press for Federal Protection of Lynx in New Mexico"
- September 9, 2011 - “Federal Court Approves Historic Species Agreement”
- March 21, 2013 - "Imperiled Canada Lynx Caught in Traps Push the Species Closer to Extinction"
- June 30, 2014 - "Lawsuit Filed to Protect Rare Lynx From Traps in Idaho"
- September 11, 2014 - "Rare Lynx Finally Gain Federal Protection Throughout The U.S."
- September 12, 2014 - "Conservationists to Challenge Insufficient Lynx Habitat Protection"
- October 31, 2014 - “Feds Refuse to Share Information to Protect Rare Wildlife”
- November 17, 2014 - “Conservationists Challenge Failure to Protect Habitat for Imperiled Canada Lynx”
- April 27, 2015 - “Clear Cut Logging in Colorado Challenged to Protect Lynx”
- May 20, 2015 - “Better Protection for Grizzly, Wolverine and Lynx Needed on Montana National Forest”
- July 9, 2015 - “Montana Approves Restrictions on Trapping to Save Imperiled Lynx”
- September 23, 2015 - “Court Approves Settlement to Save Imperiled Lynx from Trapping”
- January 12, 2016 - “Court Orders Idaho to Stop Illegal Trapping of Protected Lynx”
- Related Campaigns