The Canadian lynx is a cat of medium size with characteristic long ear tufts, a flared facial ruff, and a short, bobbed tail that has a completely black tip. Its paws are unusually large and in very deep snow act like snowshoes. Lynxes have thick fur and long legs, the hind legs being longer than the front legs, giving it a stooped appearance. Males are slightly bigger than females and there is not much geographic variation in size.
Native to North America, the Canadian lynx inhabits a range from the Arctic treeline, southwards through a good part of Alaska and Canada, as well as the north of the adjoining United States. It typically occurs in dense boreal forests, though it is sometimes found in rocky areas and open forests.
Canadian lynxes appear to be territorial and live solitary lives. Although the ranges of females sometimes overlap, males keep to distinct areas. Within male home ranges there may be the range of several females and their young. Except during the breeding season in winter, adults generally avoid each other. Hunting mainly at night, these animals are primarily visual predators, however, they also have good hearing. Females and their young sometimes hunt together when they spread out in a line and move through relatively open areas. In this way, prey flushed out by one individual is often caught by another in the line. This hunting method can work quite well and it may be important for educating the young about hunting technique. Although mainly nocturnal, Canadian lynxes are sometimes active during the day. Their form of shelter is usually a rock ledge, under a group of fallen trees, or a shrub.
Canadian lynxes keep strictly to a carnivorous diet, snowshoe hares being their primary prey. In the southernmost parts of their range, their diet includes rodents, fish, birds, and deer.
Canadian lynxes have a polygynous mating system. The females will only mate during each season with one male, but the males may mate with a number of females. The breeding season is just for a month, somewhere from March to May, according to the local climate. The period of gestation is 8 to 10 weeks and litters usually number 2 or 3, though may be between 1 to 5 kittens. Males do not help to raise their offspring. After about five weeks, the kittens leave the den, and they begin hunting between seven and nine months old. They leave their mother at about the age of ten months, when the next breeding season starts. Siblings may stay together for some time after separating from their mother. Females are sexually mature at 21 months, males at 33 months.
In eastern Canada, the Canadian lynx is competing with the eastern coyote, which, over the last few decades, has expanded its range. In the United States in the south, the main threats are habitat fragmentation and change, accidents, and increased competition against other predators. Significant numbers of deaths are also due to rabies and distemper.
The IUCN Red List and other sources do not provide the Canada lynx total population size. However, this species’ numbers are stable and currently it is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.
Canadian lynxes are important in controlling their prey populations. This is especially noticeable in the population cycles of lynxes and snowshoe hares.