Monday, May 31, 2010

Canada Lynx

The Canada Lynx (Lynx canadesis) is the only wild cat found in Alaska. This initially surprised me, since I assumed Mountain Lions made it up there as well, but their range stops just south of the state. This leaves the 20lb Lynx as Alaska's top (and only) feline predator. They are very elusive animals and avoid human contact. Seeing one in the wild is a rare treat!

Image from Center for Native Ecosystems
Lynx are primarily nocturnal, and dwell only in forested areas, where their prey is abundant and where they can build their dens. Like many feline species, Lynx are solitary creatures. They travel and hunt alone, and come together during the March-April mating season. Young Lynx (kittens!) remain with their mother for a year, learning how to hunt. Lynx have exceptional adaptations -long legs, huge paws- for hunting snowshoe hare, which makes up most of their diet. The Lynx and the Hare populations are closely linked. Every ten years the Hare population peaks, and the number of Lynx also rises. The same is true for population decreases. There is concern that global warming will have a huge negative impact on this predator/prey relationship. As less snow falls, the snow on the ground is prone to freezing. This creates a hunting climate unfavorable to Lynx, who use their large paws to hunt in deep, soft snow and gain the predatory advantage over other hunters such as coyotes.

Canada Lynx are listed as threatened in the lower 48 states according to the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has set up a recovery plan for the species, which includes designating recovery zones. However, according to the IUCN Red List, Canada Lynx are of least concern, as their populations in Canada (except New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) and Alaska are still quite abundant. Lynx can be legally hunted in various areas of Alaska.

1 comment:

  1. As you know, we did get to see 2 in Denali last Sunday! Our guide indicated that these were the first he had seen in about 3 years!


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