The Canada lynx (Lynx Canadensis) is a medium-sized wildcat native to North America, and it ranges across Canada, Alaska, and many bordering countries. The Canada lynx has been known to inhabit dense boreal forests.
It is no coincidence that the range of the Canada lynx collides with that of the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), which is its primary source of food.
It is in abundance and has been listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, unlike its cousin, the Iberian lynx, which was close to extinction.
Phylogenetic research made in the year 2006 stated that the genera Lynx, Puma, Leopardus, Felis, Otocolobus, and Prionailurus all had a common ancestor.
The common ancestor arrived in North America after crossing the Bering Strait 8 to 8.5 million years ago (mya). Lynx metamorphosed from the Felis, Puma, Otocolobus, and Prionailurus lineages around 2.53 to 4.74 million years ago (mya).
The ancestor of the four common Lynx species is the Issoire lynx (L. issodorensis). It is said to have originated from Africa 4 million years ago (mya). It was native to Europe and northern Asia, and then it went into extinction around 1 million years ago (mya).
A Swedish paleontologist named Lars Werdelin stated in his 1981 paper that there hadn’t been any change in the Canada lynx since its first appearance.
Canada lynx fossil remains were excavated in the northern part of America, dating back to the Wisconsin Glacial Episode and the Sangamonian.
The Canada lynx has a lean, medium-sized body. Its dense, long fur, triangular ears with black tufts twisted at the tip, and broad snowshoe-type paws.
It has a physical trait similar to that of a bobcat, in which its hind limbs are longer than the forelimbs.
Canada lynxes are sexually dimorphic, with males being heavier and larger than females. The Canada lynx is between 29 to 42 in (73 to 107 cm) in head and body length & stands 19 to 22 in (48 to 56 cm) tall at the shoulder.
A female Canada lynx weighs about 11 to 26 lb (5 to 12 kg) while a male weighs about 13 to 37 lb (6 to 17 kg). The stubby tail of the Canada lynx is 2.0 to 5.1 in (5 to 13 cm) long, and its tail has a completely black tip.
The Canada lynx has long, thick fur, uniformly colored with little or no marking except for the underside that insulates the lynx from its habitat’s cold, harsh temperature.
Its fur varies from yellowish-brown to brown to buff-grey. The color of its fur varies with season, which means it turns grey-ish shade in summer, buff-grey in spring, and a grizzled appearance in winter.
The underpants, including the belly, are white and may consist of some dark spots.
There are no albinistic or melanistic forms of the Canada lynx apart from a specimen from Alaska, which has a bluish-grey fur. The Canada lynx is usually longer in winter than in summer. The back of each ear is brown, with a silvery-grey spot at the center.
The Canada lynx claws are fully retractable and are very sharp. It has large, broad paws covered with thick, long fur and can spread as wide as 3.9 in (10 cm) to aid in moving quickly and easily on snow.
Both Canada lynx and bobcat walk on their hind legs, which typically follow the forelegs but not always on a straight line. The stride is 12 to 18 in (30 to 46 cm) for the Canada lynx, while that of the bobcat varies between 5 to 16 in (13 to 41 cm). The Canada lynx paws are larger than the bobcats, making the tracks generally larger.
Furs on the toe pads also contribute to the tracks of a Canada lynx being less prominent in the snow. In the dirt, the tracks of a Canada lynx are 3 to 3.75 in (7.6 to 9.5 cm) long and 3.5 to 4.5 in (8.9 to 11.4 cm) wide, whereas, in snow, they appear bigger (4.5 in (11 cm) long and 5 in (13 cm) wide).
The long legs, broad paw, and warm coat are adaptations for the lynx to hunt and move efficiently in the snow. The Canada lynx has 28 teeth, similar to other lynxes but different from other felids with 30.
Young Canada lynx do not have molars, and the four long canines are used for gripping and puncturing. The Canada lynx’s canines are laced with nerves, which makes the lynx feel every bite.
It also possesses four carnassials teeth, which are used for cutting meats into smaller pieces. There are large spaces between the teeth in the dental set, and the second upper premolar is absent to ensure the bite’s effectiveness.
The Canada lynx can be differentiated from the bobcat by its broad paws, longer ear tufts, longer legs, and short tail with a black tip. In general, the Canada lynx is bigger than a bobcat, but there are some cases where a bobcat may be larger than usual.
In such cases, the bobcat may be confused with a Canada lynx.
Hunting and Diet
The main prey on the Canada lynx is the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus). These hares comprise 35 to 97% of their diet, and because of this, the proportion varies by the abundance of hares and the season.
During winter, the Canada lynx is less selective, and it adds small mammals to its list of prey but just as a minor component of their diet.
At the same time, some studies indicate that it is due to the low population of hares and an abundance of other prey, but this theory was never proven.
A study in Alaska discovered that lynx plays a role in the population reduction of some animals like the red fox, Dall’s sheep, and caribou. Canada lynx ingests 1.3 to 2.6 lb (0.6 to 1.2 kg) daily.
Canada lynx are nocturnal, meaning they are active, and they hunt at night or around twilight, which is when snowshoe is mostly active.
To locate its prey, it uses its vision and sense of hearing. After killing its prey, a Canada lynx either eat it immediately or store it in snow or leaves to eat later.
There are some cases where Canada lynxes may hunt together to prey on larger mammals when there is a decline in the hare population. Scavenging is not a new thing for the Canada lynx, meaning it also eats ungulates killed by vehicles or cold.
The mating period lasts for a month, from March to April. The female Canada lynx creates a maternal den made out of shrubs, woody debris, and trees, and after 2 – 3 months of gestation, a litter of 1 – 8 kittens is born.
Canada lynx reproductive cycle and litter size are said to vary according to the availability of prey available. A decline in the snowshoe hare population across the years will also trigger a decline in litter size and vice versa.
At birth, kittens may weigh from 6.2 – 8.3 oz (175 – 235 g) and initially have grey-ish buff fur with black markings. They cannot see for 14 days after birth and are weaned for 12 weeks.
The birth of kittens occurs from May – to July, after 2 – 3 of gestation. Kittens are allowed to leave the den at five weeks, and they begin to hunt from seven to nine months of age.
They leave their mother at ten months to create space for the next batch of offspring. They reach full size at two years of age. Male offspring move far from their mother range to make their territory. While females stay close to their mother to remain in contact with her for life.
Males reach maturity at 2 – 3 years while females are sexually active at ten months but delay it another year. The lifespan of a wild Canada lynx is 16 years, while the lifespan of a Canada lynx in captivity can be as long as 27 years.
The Canada lynx inhabit dense boreal forests, and its habitats coincide with that of the snowshoe hares.
The Canada lynx is known to roam 24 states in the northern United States, the Rocky Mountains in Mexico, to the coniferous forests in Canada and Alaska.
In Canada, the lynx can be found in the southern Rocky Mountains, New England, the Great Lakes region, the Blue Mountains, and the Cascade Range. Canada lynxes avoid heavily logged areas, open areas, and agricultural lands despite good prey availability.
Facts about Canada lynx
- Scientific name: Lynx Canadensis
- Average weight: Approximately 8 kilograms to 14 kilograms
- Average length: Approximately 90 centimeters
- Average lifespan: Up to 16 years in the wild