Species Profile: Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis)
Species Profile by Gioia Cabri (University of Vermont)
Taku Conservation Program, 2013
The Canada Lynx is a secretive creature of the north. A rare sighting of this animal in its boreal habitat would be regarded as a memorable and spiritual event. Its long legs and broad paws, which can spread wider than 10 cm, adapt the lynx for travel in deep snows. In the winter, the lynx grows a thick coat that is silver-grey and faintly mottled, as well as extra fur in between its toes and around its paws, which contribute to their snowshoe-like design. In the summer its coat is shorter and brownish-grey. It is also distinguishable by its characteristic black ear tufts and ruff of fur around its face. It is about twice the size of the average house cat, and in some ways reminds us of our household friends. It has an excellent sense of smell and sight, as well as a curious and vocal nature, known to purr and yowl. The eerie nighttime yowling of a lynx has been described as “a shrill, strident cry, ending in a long-drawn wail” (Murie, 1954).
The main prey of the lynx is the snowshoe hare, making up about 75% of its diet. One lynx may eat as many as 200 hares in a year (Scotter, 1995). This tight biological relationship between the lynx and the hare causes the two populations to fluctuate around one another in a cyclical manner. The lynx plays an important role in its boreal ecosystem by keeping populations of hare, one of the most abundant herbivores, in check. Its home range is 5-7 square miles during peak hare seasons, and 5 times that size during hare population declines. In the stories of Northern tribes, the lynx has played various roles, from a mysterious stranger, to a model of honor and responsibility, to a greedy, violent villain.
Scotter, George W. Mammals of the Canadian Rockies. Fifth House Publishers. 1995.
Murie, Olaus J. A Field Guide to Animal Tracks. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 1954.
Drawing by Gioia Cabri.