Ron Moen, PhD, Natural Resources Research Institute
Steve Windels, PhD, Voyageurs National Park
Voyageurs National Park (VOYA) is within historical distribution limits of Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis). Records of lynx exist for the area in and near VOYA since the 1970s, and recent sightings have been confirmed with DNA analysis. We initiated this project to determine habitat suitability for lynx in VOYA, and if possible to deploy radiocollars on lynx in VOYA. The lynx radiotelemetry project on the Superior National Forest provided data on home range size, density, cover type use, and prey density to which VOYA could be compared. We used remote cameras and snow-tracking to search for lynx in and near VOYA in 2007 and 2008. We estimated density of the lynx’s primary prey, snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) with hare pellet counts, extrapolated hare density to the landscape level, and contrasted VOYA with lynx home ranges from the Superior National Forestradiotelemetry project. Remote cameras and track searches did not provide evidence to suggest there were resident lynx in VOYA.
No lynx were seen in pictures taken at camera stations where other carnivore species were photographed during this project, though one transient individual was photographed in 2009 (see photo). We did not positively identify any tracks to be from lynx. The hare pellet data indicated that VOYA and the surrounding area appear to be poor habitat for lynx at the present time. Hare pellet densities in core areas of lynx home ranges in northeastern Minnesota were 1.5 to 2.0 times higher than hare pellet densities in and near VOYA. If hare density were to increase, VOYA and the surrounding area could support up to 3 to 4 female and 2 male lynx based on average home range size from elsewhere in Minnesota.
Although there may be local areas of high hare density a lynx could use for a short period, it does not appear that there are currently resident lynx in VOYA given the search effort over the past seven years. Lynx documented on and near VOYA are probably transient animals.