Lynx

A lynx stands profile among vegetation.

Canada lynx are rarely seen in Yellowstone National Park.

NPS/Restivo

 

Although historical records suggest that Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) have been present in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem since at least 1893, recent surveys indicate the species is now rare and spotty in distribution. In 2000, the US Fish and Wildlife Service listed the lynx as “threatened” in the lower 48 states. Much of the park and surrounding area is considered much of the critical habitat for the species in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Habitat

Lynx habitat in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is often naturally patchy due to natural fire frequency and generally limited to conifer forests above 7,700 feet where the distribution of its primary prey, snowshoe hare, is often insufficient to support lynx residency and reproduction. The lower quality habitat means home ranges in this ecosystem are larger than those farther north, with lynx traveling long distances between foraging sites.

 

Quick Facts

Number in Yellowstone

  • Few; 112 known observations

Where to See

  • Very rarely seen.
  • Typical habitat: cold conifer forests.

Size and Behavior

  • Adult: 16–35 pounds, 26–33 inches long.
  • Gray brown fur with white, buff, brown on throat and ruff; tufted ears; short tail; hind legs longer than front.
  • Distinguish from bobcat: black rings on tail are complete; tail tip solid black; longer ear tufts; larger track.
  • Wide paws with fur in and around pads; allows lynx to run across snow.
  • Track: 4–5 inches.
  • Solitary, diurnal and nocturnal.
  • Eats primarily snowshoe hares, especially in winter; also rodents, rabbits, birds, red squirrels, and other small mammals, particularly in summer.
 
A map of national forest, national park, and Fish and Wildlife Services land in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem with lynx locations and detections

DNA-based detections of lynx documented in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, 1996 to 2008. Numerous locations of radio-collared lynx from Colorado that were obtained using satellite-based telemetry are unavailable. Data provided by Endeavor Wildlife Research, Wild Things Unlimited, the US Forest Service, and the National Park Service.

NPS

 

More Information

References

The list below includes academic publications, government publications, management documents that inform the decision-making process at parks and protected areas, as well as links to websites that provide additional relevant information. The Yellowstone Resources and Issues Handbook, updated annually, is the book our rangers use to answer many basic park questions.

Murphy, K., T. Potter, J. Halfpenny, K. Gunther, T. Jones, and R. Lundberg. 2005. The elusive Canada lynx: Surveying for Yellowstone’s most secretive threatened carnivore. Yellowstone Science 13(2): 7–15.

Murphy, K.M., T.M. Potter, J.C. Halfpenny, K.A. Gunther, M.T. Jones, P.A. Lundberg, and N.D. Berg. 2006. Distribution of Canada Lynx in Yellowstone National Park. Northwest Science 80(3):199–206.

Murphy, S.C. and M.M. Meagher. 2000. The status of wolverines, lynx, and fishers in Yellowstone National Park. In A. P. Curlee, A. Gillesberg and D. Casey, ed., Greater Yellowstone predators: Ecology and conservation in a changing landscape, 57–62. Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative and Yellowstone National Park.

Ruggiero, L.F. et al. ed. 2000. Ecology and Conservation of Canada Lynx in the US. Boulder: University of Colorado.

Squires, J.R. 2005. Conservation challenges of managing lynx. Yellowstone Science 13(2): 10–11.

Squires, J.R. and R. Oakleaf. 2005. Movements of a male Canada lynx crossing the Greater Yellowstone Area, including highways. Northwest Science 79(2–3):196–201.

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