Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis)
The Canada lynx is one of three Canadian members of the cat family (Felidae) including the bobcat and cougar. They are elusive nighttime hunters that are rarely seen in the wild.
Why they Matter to Us
- Lynx are an important predator, linked closely with snowshoe hare populations.
- Due to their elusive nature, observing a lynx in its natural habitat is a rare treat and usually a fleeting, memorable moment.
- The Edmonton Oilers' mascot, Hunter, is a Canada lynx!
- At the start of the 1900s the Canada lynx population declined severely due to the fur trade until about the mid-1950s when long-haired furs went out of fashion.
- Canada lynx are still trapped today within regulations.
How You Can Help
How to Identify
If you are ever in the forest and see a very large house cat roaming around, you are most likely in the presence of a Canada lynx.
Identify by Sight
- The Canada lynx is half the length of a cougar and weighs between 8 - 14 kg (18 - 31 lbs). They have long legs, making them about 60 cm tall.
- Most notably, the Canada lynx has black tufts on their ears and a short, black-tipped tail.
- The lynx's fur is long, dense and gray in the winter, and short, thin and reddish-brown in the summer.
Identify by Sound
The Canada lynx makes sounds similar to that of a really loud house cat.
Where to Find
The Canada lynx can be found in the boreal forest all across Canada. In Alberta, they are most common in mixedwood, montane and foothills. Lynx den in rock cavities hidden by dense forest with a thick undercover of shrubs and deadfall.
The Canada lynx is a territorial animal. Male lynxes generally live alone except during mating season when they will seek out a female. Lynxes mate in March and give birth to a litter of 3 - 4 kittens in May under a brush pile or uprooted tree. The kittens nurse and are brought food at the den. At 3 to 4 months old, the kittens join their mother in the hunt.
The Canada lynx relies heavily on the snowshoe hare for its main food source. So much so that its population cycle roughly follows that of the snowshoe hare. When its main food source is scarce, the lynx will travel far to find alternative food sources, including birds, rodents, carrion, deer fawns, and lambs of mountain sheep.
The Canada lynx is a fast short distance runner, relying on their stealth to sneak up on and stalk prey. They often hunt at night as they have big eyes and superior hearing to find their prey.
Cougars, wolves, coyotes, and humans are predators to the Canada lynx.
- Canada lynx can live to 15 - 20 years of age.
- Their large fur-covered feet act like snowshoes allowing them to easily travel on snow.
- Just like a house cat, the lynx has retractable claws, used when catching prey.
- Lynx are excellent climbers, yet rare to see in a tree.