Lynx

A cat sits on the ground and looks off in the distance
Canada lynx are rarely seen in Yellowstone National Park.

NPS / Neil Blake

 
A map of the boundaries of Yellowstone, Grand Teton, surrounding forest land and wildlife refuges with scattered dots
DNA-based detections of lynx documented in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, 1996 to 2008. Numerous locations of radio-collared lynx from Colorado are unavailable. Data provided by Endeavor Wildlife Research, Wild Things Unlimited, US Forest Service, and the National Park Service.

NPS

Historical information suggests lynx were present, but uncommon, in Yellowstone National Park during 1880 to 1980. The presence and distribution of lynx in the park was documented during 2001 to 2004, when several individuals were detected in the vicinity of Yellowstone Lake and the Central Plateau. A lynx was photographed in 2007 along the Gibbon River, and another lynx was observed near Indian Creek Campground in the northwestern portion of Yellowstone during 2010. Tracks of an individual were verified near the Northeast Entrance in 2014. Reliable detections of lynx continue to occur in surrounding National Forest System lands. Evidence suggests lynx successfully reproduce in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, though production is limited.

In 2000, the US Fish and Wildlife Service listed the lynx as “threatened” in the lower 48 states. Portions 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.
 

More Information

References

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.

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168

Phone:

(307) 344-7381
Recorded information. For road and weather information, please dial 307-344-2117.

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