Canada Lynx 101
The Canada lynx, a wild cat slightly larger than a bobcat, is perfectly adapted to the snowy forests they inhabit. They have huge paws that act like snowshoes and provide an advantage over other predators as they chase snowshoe hares and other prey in winter. As a result of historic trapping and continued habitat loss, there may be as few as 1,000 lynx remaining in the lower 48.
Why They’re Important
Lynx, like other forest hunters, help maintain nature’s balance by targeting smaller prey species that reproduce relatively quickly. They also require a mixed habitat that includes younger forests with thick vegetation for hunting small prey and older forests with a full canopy and good cover for denning. By protecting lynx, we’re also protecting these rare and dwindling habitats that comprise some of the most pristine wilderness remaining in the U.S.
Lynx were valued so highly by trappers for their thick, soft fur that they were nearly eliminated in the lower 48 United States. Lynx can no longer be legally trapped in the lower 48 since it was listed as “threatened” in 2000, however, they have not fully recovered from over-trapping and habitat loss and remain at serious risk. Logging, road-building, resource extraction and winter recreation that do not provide for the needs of lynx continue to degrade and break up lynx habitat, making it harder for this species to survive. In addition, less predictable snowpack due to climate change takes away the lynx’s special advantage in winter, making it easier for less specialized competitors like coyotes and bobcats to move into and take over lynx territory.
What Defenders Is Doing to Help Lynx
Since the early ‘90s, Defenders has been pushing the federal government to protect lynx, first by obtaining Endangered Species Act protections for them, then by fighting to ensure they have sufficient habitat protected to survive. Today, we’re pushing federal officials to create a comprehensive nationwide recovery plan for lynx, the next important step in their long road to recovery.