A Review of the Canada Lynx, Lynx canadensis, in Canada


  • Kim G. Poole Aurora Wildlife Research, 2305 Annable Rd., Nelson, British Columbia V1L 6K4




Canada Lynx, Lynx canadensis, COSEWIC, Canada, status, review, ecology


The Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis) is the most common and widespread member of the cat family in Canada. Lynx are distributed throughout forested regions of Canada and Alaska and into portions of the northern contiguous United States, closely paralleling the range of its primary prey, the Snowshoe Hare (Lepus americanus). They are most common in the boreal, sub-boreal and western montane forests, preferring older regenerating forests (>20 years) and generally avoiding younger stands, and occupy roughly 95% of their former range in Canada. Lynx population size fluctuates 3–17 fold over an 8–11 year cycle, tracking the abundance of Snowshoe Hares with a 1–2 year lag. During increasing and high hare abundance, lynx have high reproductive output and high kit and adult survival. The decline phase is characterized by reproductive failure, increased natural mortality, and high rates of dispersal. Dispersal distances of over 1000 km have been recorded. During the cyclic low, kit recruitment essentially fails for 2–3 years, and is followed by several years of modest reproductive output. Reproductive parameters in southern lynx populations appear similar to those found during the cyclic low and early increase phase in more northern populations. Trapping is a significant source of mortality in some areas. Field studies have documented from 2–45 lynx/100 km2 at various times in the cycle and in various habitats. Although the amplitude of the cyclic fluctuations in lynx numbers may have decreased somewhat in recent decades, there is no evidence to suggest a significant decline in numbers in Canada. Lynx are managed as a furbearer in Canada, with harvest regulated primarily by seasons, quotas, and closures. The harvest over the past decade has declined concurrent with declining pelt prices, and is currently a fraction of historic levels. Lynx are fully protected in less than 2–3% of their range in Canada. There is no evidence to suggest that overall lynx numbers or distribution across Canada have declined significantly over the past two decades, although loss of habitat through increased urbanization and development and forestry is likely affecting lynx populations along the southern fringe of its range. Its high potential to increase in numbers and propensity to disperse long distances suggest that the species is relatively resilient to localized perturbations and reductions, given time and removal of the factors that cause the initial decrease. Lowered lynx harvests, coupled with a greater awareness of the need for proactive lynx management, suggests that the overall future of lynx in Canada is secure.