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. 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.
In 2014, conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the US Fish & Wildlife Service for the agency’s failure to designate adequate critical habitat to ensure lynx recovery. Crucial habitat in Idaho, Montana and portions of the southern Rockies, including New Mexico, were left out of the agencies initial habitat designation. The lawsuit charges that the protection of biologically connecting corridors are needed, and absolutely necessary if lynx populations are to expand and eventually recover.
“Incidental trapping” remains a problem, particularly in Idaho. Friends of the Clearwater and allies secured a federal court decision in 2016 ordering the state to implement regulations that will prevent lynx from being harmed, killed or released from a trap (as mandated by the ESA). In 2018, a federal judge reversed course unfortunately and ruled that Idaho does not need to alter trap rules to protect lynx.
- US Fish & Wildlife Service recommended Canada lynx be removed from Endangered Species Act – January 2018.
- Learn more about Canada lynx.