Monday, November 21, 2011

The Canada Lynx

The Canada lynx is a member of the feline family native to Canada, Alaska, and northern parts of the continental United States, where it is now considered a threatened species. It has recently been reintroduced to Colorado, and radio-collared lynxes have now been found as far away as Iowa.
Photo: Keith Williams
Canada Lynxes are somewhat larger than bobcats, but smaller than the Eurasian lynx with which they are most closely related. Canada lynxes are 31-41 inches in length, 19-22 inches tall at the shoulder, and weigh 18-24lbs, making them about twice the size of a housecat. The Canada lynx has a very dense coat that is silvery-brown with black markings, with coat changing to more of a reddish-brown color in the summer. It has a ruff with two black points, resembling a beard, and long tufts on its ears.

A very solitary animal, the Canada lynx is most active at night and spends most of its time in or near very dense forests. It feeds almost exclusively on snowshoe hares, so much so that Canada lynx populations often rise and fall directly in conjunction with snowshoe hare populations. However, it will also hunt rodents, birds, and even larger prey such as deer when necessary, or scavenge if carrion is available. Canada lynxes are opportunistic hunters, and will kill and cache multiple animals for later consumption if a large prey population is available.
Photo: Michael Zahra
The Canada lynx breeds only in May. The females will attract mates by urinating in the same spot where a male has marked his territory and calling to him. While females only mate once, males may mate with several females each season. Litter size ranges from 1-8 cubs depending on food supply. Cubs are ready to leave the den at five weeks and spend the next 8 months learning to hunt with their mother before striking out on their own. Canada lynxes have been known to live over 26 years in captivity, but usually survive for less than 14 years in the wild.

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