Common Name: Canada Lynx
Scientific Name: Lynx canadensis
Weight: 20-30 pounds
Head/Body: 31-51 inches
Tail: 2-9 inches
Life Span: Up to 15 years
Estimated World Population: Large (About 125 in Colorado, as of November, 2006.)
We call lynx babies kits. After a 9 week gestation period, female lynx or "she-cats" give birth to litters of kits in May or June. Between one and four lynx kittens are born in each litter.
Kits are born with fur, but they are helpless. They are blind and their ears are closed.
In March or April, when lynx kits are about 10 months old, they leave their mother's care. Over half of the lynx kittens survive their first year if prey is plentiful. However, if food is in short supply, a lynx’s first year is very difficult. Many young lynx die if they cannot find enough food.
If there is a shortage of prey, lynx may or may not mate and have kits. If prey is abundant, nearly every lynx will mate. Lynx may mate their first winter if prey is extremely abundant, but in average years they mate during their second winter.
Canada lynx are about the size of a medium-sized dog. They have large feet and long legs. Lynx may appear to be stooping over, because their hind legs are slightly longer than their front legs. Like bobcats, they have short tails. Their fur is gray to reddish-brown with muted, or barely visible, spots. A ruff of hair surrounds their face and long, dark hairs form tufts at the tips of their ears.
Two other members of the cat family live in Colorado, mountain lions and bobcats. The Canada lynx’s closet relatives, Eurasian and Spanish lynx, live in Europe.
Mountain lions are much larger than bobcat or lynx. They have very long tails and small, rounded ears. They are tawny brown to cinnamon in color and only their kittens have spots. The mountain lion’s scientific name, Felis concolor, means "cat of one color."
Canada lynx and bobcats are about the same size and look much alike. However, bobcats have smaller feet and shorter fur with more obvious spots.
The Canada lynx of North America looks much like the Eurasian lynx. However, the Eurasian lynx is a lot larger. It is nearly twice as big as the Canada lynx. Because the Eurasian lynx is a larger animal, it kills larger prey, like deer.
The Spanish lynx is about the same size as the Canada lynx. However, its fur is yellowish brown, with distinct black spots.
Habitat and Behavior
Lynx prefer living in coniferous forests, which are made up primarily of cone-bearing trees like pines, spruces, firs, and larches. Lynx like forests with many different sized trees and a thick understory (the plant life on the forest floor). This type of habitat is also ideal for their preferred prey species—the snowshoe hare.
Lynx are, however, very adaptable and can live in rocky areas, open forest, scrub brush—even dunes.
Canada lynx prey mostly on snowshoe hare. Scientists estimate that snowshoe hares make up about 80% of their diet. When hares are scarce, they prey on grouse, ptarmigan, pine squirrels, marmots, mice, ground squirrels, beaver, muskrat, and other small animals and birds. Lynx occasionally eat deer, elk, and even moose when they can kill a calf or fawn. They also scavenge and will eat carrion. Carrion (kar-ee-un) is meat from animals that died of other causes, like old age, disease, accidents, or other predators.
Lynx run and climb well, but they usually hunt on the ground. Lynx rest (or bed) under ledges, trees, or in caves. In bad weather, they may bed under thick spruce trees.
Lynx usually stalk their prey alone, but will occasionally hunt cooperatively with other lynx. They may also ambush their prey, as a mountain lion does.
A lynx indicates its mood using its long, black ear tufts. Most cats display their moods by moving their tails. A lynx’s tail is just too short!