Canadian Lynx

Canadian Lynx

Canada lynx, North American lynx, Canada lynx

4 languages
Lynx canadensis
Population size
Life Span
15 yrs
Top speed
80 km/h
5-17 kg
48-56 cm
76-106 cm

The Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis ) is a medium-sized North American lynx that ranges across Alaska, Canada, and northern areas of the contiguous United States. It is characterized by its long, dense fur, triangular ears with black tufts at the tips, and broad, snowshoe-like paws. Its hindlimbs are longer than the forelimbs, so its back slopes downward to the front. The Canada lynx stands 48–56 cm (19–22 in) tall at the shoulder and weighs between 5 and 17 kg (11 and 37 lb). The lynx is a good swimmer and an agile climber. The Canada lynx was first described by Robert Kerr in 1792. Three subspecies have been proposed, but their validity is doubted; it is mostly considered a monotypic species.

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A specialist predator, the Canada lynx depends heavily on the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus ) for food. This leads to a prey-predator cycle, as Canada lynxes respond to the cyclic rises and falls in snowshoe hare populations over the years in Alaska and central Canada. The Canada lynx population increases with an increasing hare population; if the hare population decreases in a given area, it moves to areas with more hares and has fewer offspring. The Canada lynx hunts mainly around twilight, or at night, when snowshoe hares tend to be active. The lynx waits for the hare on specific trails or in "ambush beds", then pounces on it and kills it by a bite on its head, throat or the nape of its neck. Individuals, particularly of the same sex, tend to avoid each other, forming "intrasexual" territories. The mating season is roughly a month long (from March to early April). After a gestation of two to three months, a litter of one to eight kittens is born. Offspring are weaned at 12 weeks.

This lynx occurs predominantly in dense boreal forests, and its range strongly coincides with that of the snowshoe hare. Given its abundance throughout the range and lack of severe threats, the Canada lynx has been listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. This lynx is regularly trapped for the international fur trade in most of Alaska and Canada but is protected in the southern half of its range due to threats such as habitat loss.

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Ambush predator








Not a migrant


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Canada Province Animals


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 them a stooped appearance. Males are slightly bigger than females and there is not much geographic variation in size.



Biogeographical realms
WWF Biomes

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 occurs predominantly in the dense boreal forest, and its range strongly coincides with that of the Snowshoe hare. In the United States, the Canadian lynx occurs in the Blue Mountains, the Cascade Range and the southern Rocky Mountains, the Great Lakes region, and New England. The animal generally avoids open areas despite good prey availability and faces difficulty surviving in heavily logged areas and on agricultural land.

Canadian Lynx habitat map

Climate zones

Canadian Lynx habitat map
Canadian Lynx
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Habits and Lifestyle

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 techniques. 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.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

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.

Mating Habits

8-10 weeks
2-3 kittens
12 months

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. The young weigh from 175 to 235 g (6.2 to 8.3 oz) at birth and initially have greyish buff fur with black markings. They are blind the first 14 days and weaned at 12 weeks. Males do not help to raise their offspring. After about 5 weeks, the kittens leave the den, and they begin hunting between 7 and 9 months old. They leave their mother when the next breeding season starts. Siblings may stay together for some time after separating from their mother. Females reach reproductive maturity at 10 months but often delay breeding another year; males mature at age 2 or 3.


Population threats

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.

Population number

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.

Ecological niche

Canadian lynxes are important in controlling their prey populations. This is especially noticeable in the population cycles of lynxes and snowshoe hares.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The word “lynx” comes from the Greek “to shine,” and may refer to the animal’s eyes’ reflective ability.
  • Canadian lynxes have superb eyesight and can spot a mouse 250 feet away. The black tufts on the top of their ears enhance their already excellent hearing.
  • A 30-pound lynx has larger feet than a mountain lion of 200 pounds. These big feet are like snowshoes, enabling them to hunt effectively in deep snow.
  • This cat is not a fast runner and does not chase its prey but ambushes it instead.
  • The Canadian lynx is a very vocal animal, producing cat-like meows, hisses, and purrs.
  • Many scientists think that thousands of years ago the Canadian lynx migrated to North America from Asia, probably crossing the land bridge between the two continents at that time.


1. Canadian Lynx Wikipedia article -
2. Canadian Lynx on The IUCN Red List site -

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