Approximately 1,000 Canada lynx inhabit a portion of their historical range in the Lower 48. Lynx prefer forested and high-elevation areas, with small populations in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. Other populations occur in Maine and Minnesota. Research suggests there are approximately 100 lynx in Idaho. A Forest Service wildlife biologist had a confirmed lynx sighting along the Lochsa River in the 2000’s. Lynx were historically found throughout the Clearwater region.
Canada lynx home ranges vary between 3-300 square miles. Their populations and densities remain low in the continental U.S. Lynx populations are cyclical and are closely linked with snowshoe hare populations (their main prey base). There has not been a confirmed lynx breeding pair in Idaho for some time.
Canada lynx are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Populations have been splintered by habitat loss and fragmentation largely due in part to road building and logging of old-growth forests. Off-road vehicles and snowmobiles threaten biological connectivity, too. Excessive trapping was historically a threat to populations until the species was listed under the ESA. Incidental trapping remains a problem, however, particularly in Idaho.
In 2014, conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for the agency’s failure to designate adequate critical habitat to ensure lynx recovery. A court sided with the plaintiffs, and ordered that after a 17-year delay, the agency needs to complete a recovery plan for the species. The deadline for this plan was January 2018. Instead of following the court’s orders, the agency did an about-face, and alleged that the species no longer needs to be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Read the critique of this alleged claim. Instead of prematurely stripping lynx of protection, additional critical habitat in Idaho, Montana, Colorado, and New Mexico should be designated so that genuine recovery and distribution can occur. The Fish & Wildlife Service has not made an official proposal to remove current protections for lynx.
Learn more about lynx.
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