Shadow Cat: Canada Lynx Silently Cross U.S. State, National Borders

Canada lynx are moving across national and state lines.
On-the-move: Canada lynx are making their way into new territory. (Photograph: USFWS/Keith Williams)

The forest has eyes. And somewhere in the shadows of a winter dusk that falls across towns in northern New England, they’re watching.

The deep green eyes of the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) have the advantage in the region’s dark spruce-fir, or boreal, forest. They see without being seen. The better to go walkabout in new territories, say researchers who have tracked lynx in U.S. states such as Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Cats-of-the-snow on the prowl

Lynx habitat – the boreal forest – extends across Canada and reaches down into the northernmost U.S. There lynx have it all: their main food source, snowshoe hares; the brushy woods the hares prefer; and the deep winter snows to which lynx and hares have adapted. Both species have thick cushions of hair on the soles of their large, snowshoe-like feet.

Lynx populations are in sync with those of their hare prey, according to ecologist Jeff Bowman of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Snowshoe hare numbers peak about every 10 years, says Bowman, with lynx numbers reaching highs a year later.

South of the U.S.-Canada border, the spruce-fir forest begins to peter out, and with it, numbers of snowshoe hares and, usually, lynx. But lynx numbers in Maine are now at a relative high, according to biologist Jennifer Vashon of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “Our last estimate, in 2006, was 750 to 1,000 adults,” she says. “We think the population has grown since then, and that lynx have expanded their range.” State biologists are conducting a new survey; they plan to have an updated count by 2018.

Maine’s lynx may be doing well enough that they’re fostering new populations in New Hampshire and Vermont – states where the snow —> Read More