Canada Lynx

Lynx canadensis

Washington is home to one of the last and largest Canada lynx populations remaining in the United States.

Lynx are among the most endangered felines in North America, with only a few hundred animals suspected to remain in the lower 48 states. In Washington, their range includes the North Cascades north of Lake Chelan primarily in the Pasayten Wilderness and Loomis Forest, as well as a few animals in the Kettle River Mountain Range and Selkirk Mountains.

A Canada lynx in winter. Photo: USFWS

As of early 2017, the latest estimates from state and federal biologists indicate there are between 50 and 100 lynx in our state. In late 2016, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife listed lynx as Endangered in our state. 

News on Canada Lynx

Protection status

In the lower 48 states, lynx are considered threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. Their protection followed a petition and decade of support by Conservation Northwest and other conservation organizations. Lynx were often trapped for their valuable fur during the last century, and this practice continues in Canada.

A close up photo of an Okanogan-area lynx. Photo: Scott Fisher, WA DNR

Today, aggressive logging, roadbuilding, and development of lynx habitat has severely fragmented their living space. Snowmobile trails and roads pose problems for lynx because these packed-snow pathways give high-country access to cougar and coyote (which can eat lynx), and bobcat (which compete with lynx).

What we are doing

We’ve worked hard to ensure that this magnificent animal continues to thrive and recover across the Pacific Northwest. With the help of thousands of Washingtonians, in 1999 we successfully protected the Loomis Forest, 25,000 acres of top lynx habitat.

In 2000, with a population perilously low and a decade after Conservation Northwest filed the original petition urging its protection, the Canada lynx was finally protected under the Endangered Species Act and listed as threatened in Washington. Now, Conservation Northwest is helping protect lynx in Washington in other ways as well, including redirecting logging outside of lynx critical habitat and connecting lynx habitat.

Lynx facts

  • Lynx are considered a boreal species. Lynx are specially adapted to the deep snows of northern forests, where their massive paws keep them afloat in their snowy open forest and borealhabitat.
  • Smaller than a cougar but bigger than a bobcat, Canada lynx have silvery fur and black ear tufts. Their tails are shorter than a bobcat’s! Read more on lynx by authority Gary Koehler
  • Snowshoe hares, the lynx’s preferred food, thrive in the dense cover of a brushy forest understory. Lynx are adapted to the natural fire cycle of lodgepole pine. Fire opens cones and releases seeds, to create supple new shoots that feed snowshoe hares. Check out our article about the snowshoe hare and the science of predator-prey relationships.
  • Lynx need older forests, with plenty of snags, downed logs, and woody cover for hunting and denning.
  • Lynx are not particularly fast (it’s hard to hunt on snow!), so they have to be sneaky and lie in wait for their prey.