Canada Lynx

Canada Lynx

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Description

The lynx is the only cat species native to Alaska.  They are a large, short-tailed cat, distinguished from the bobcat by their long legs, furry feet, long tufts of hair on the tip of each ear and black-tipped tail.  The dense and soft fur is buffy grey with indistinct spotting.  Their large, broad feet function as snowshoes to aid the lynx in winter hunting and traveling.

Lifestyle

Lynx are solitary and seem to be territorial, with ranges varying in size from 7 to 186 miles. Adults typically avoid each other except during breeding season.  Activity is almost entirely nocturnal.

Food Habits

Canada lynx are strict carnivores.  Snowshoe hares are of particular importance in the diet of these cats, and populations of the two are known to fluctuate in cycles with periods of 8 to 11 years.  In these cycles, there is a slight lag between hare and lynx populations.  In the fall and winter, lynx will kill and eat deer and other large ungulates that are weakened by the rutting season.  They also utilize carcasses left by human hunters.

Lifecycle

Mating takes place in February and March and is followed by a gestation period of eight to ten weeks. The female gives birth in dens under rock ledges, in fallen trees or shrubs.  Litters typically have 2 or 3 kittens, though the number may range from 1 to 5. Lynx weigh about 200 g at birth.  Males do not participate in parental care.  Young remain with the mother until the next breeding season, and siblings may remain together for longer after separation from the mother.

Population Status, Threats & Conservation

The greatest pressure on lynx populations is the fluctuation of hare populations every 8 to 11 years.  Lynx help control populations of small mammals that are considered agricultural pests, such as snowshoe hares and voles.  Lynx populations are affected by reductions in hare populations through increased mortality among kittens and reduced pregnancy rates. Litters are larger and kittens healthier in years when hare populations are large and food is plentiful.

Sources:
Notebook series, ADFG
Fox, D. and T. Murphy. 2002. "Lynx canadensis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web