Lynx canadensis    Kerr, 1792

Canada Lynx 

MN Status:
special concern
Federal Status:


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Minnesota range map
Map Interpretation
North American range map
Map Interpretation

  Basis for Listing

Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis) are found across Canada and Alaska, with the southern range margin extending into the northern Rocky Mountains, western Great Lakes, and northeastern regions of the United States. It is usually found in association with its primary prey, Snowshoe Hare (Lepus americanus), which occur in highest densities within younger regenerating boreal forest patches with a coniferous component.  Canada Lynx densities in the U.S. are often lower than northern counterparts due to its location at the southern periphery of boreal forest, where habitat is fragmented and Snowshoe Hare densities are lower (Aubry et al. 2000). In Minnesota, Canada Lynx are primarily found in the Arrowhead region of the state (Northern Superior Uplands Section). It was debated whether or not Minnesota had a resident Canada Lynx population, or if animals in the state were part of a migrant population residing in Canada. Genetic analyses conducted from 2002 to 2016 have confirmed 316 unique individuals during this period. Ten den sites of radio-collared Canada Lynx were found during 2004-2007, confirming reproduction within the state. The best available information indicates that the Minnesota lynx population is a mix of residents and migrants from Canada. The relative proportion of resident to immigrant likely varies depending on immigrations associated with the lynx/hare population cycle and habitat change. In 2000, the Canada Lynx was listed as threatened in the lower 48 states by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The ruling was motivated by limited knowledge of the ecology of the Canada Lynx and the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms to protect the species and their habitat (USFWS 2000). Minnesota designated the Canada Lynx a species of special concern in 2013.

Humans are the primary cause of mortality to Minnesota’s small Canada Lynx population. Moen et al. (2005) found over 50% of the cases in which the cause of mortality could be established were attributable to anthropogenic causes. Documented causes include accidental trapping, road-kill, shooting, and train-kill.  


Canada Lynx are medium-sized felids, often confused with their relative the North American Bobcat (Lynx rufus), which is of similar size. They can be distinguished by body shape and pelage color differences. Canada Lynx have long legs and large well-furred paws, nearly double the size of bobcats, meant for hunting in deep snow. Both felids have black tufts on the ears and a short tail, but Canada Lynx have distinctly longer ear tufts and a black-tipped tail, rather than a striped tail with a black tip like the bobcat. Canada Lynx have a dense fur coat that is brown to gray in color, with light spotting and long neck hairs giving it a bearded appearance. Adult males average 10 kg (22 lbs.) and females 8.5 kg (19 lbs.; USFWS 2000).


Boreal forest comprises the primary habitat for Canada Lynx (USFWS 2000). This forest type is dominated by spruce (Picea spp.), fir (Abies spp.), and pine (Pinus spp.). The southern limit of boreal forest is found in the contiguous United States, including northern Minnesota. Boreal forest within Minnesota is patchy and interspersed with other habitats such as northern hardwood forest. The deciduous species in this mixed landscape include birch (Betula spp.), aspen (Populus spp.), and willow (Salix spp.). In the Great Lakes Region, Canada Lynx use these patches for hunting and traveling between preferred patches of boreal and mixed conifer-hardwood forest. Early and mid-successional forests are often used for foraging as these areas provide primary habitat for Snowshoe Hare (Aubry et al. 2000). Canada Lynx typically den in areas with large woody debris and downed logs that provide thermal cover and security for raising young. Suitable denning sites must also be located near areas with sufficient prey due to the need to return to the den (Moen et al. 2008).

  Biology / Life History

Canada Lynx are highly dependent on Snowshoe Hare for prey, with high densities necessary to support healthy Canada Lynx populations (Mowat and Slough 2003). Historically, the number of Canada Lynx in Minnesota appears to have fluctuated with the well documented 10-year population cycle of Snowshoe Hare in Canada and Alaska (USFWS 2000). When Snowshoe Hare are in decline, Canada Lynx will also prey on birds and other small mammals such as Red Squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). Litter size can range from 1-5 kittens depending on age, prey density, and geographic region. Mating occurs during the months of early spring. Gestation is approximately 60 days, with birth occurring in early summer. Kittens remain with their mother for 9-10 months (Moen et al. 2008).

  Conservation / Management

Historically, Canada Lynx have been well studied in their northern range; however, few studies had been conducted on Canada Lynx ecology in Minnesota. Moen et al. (2005) conducted a study using GPS collars to determine movement patterns, habitat use, abundance, and persistence of Canada Lynx in Minnesota in order to create informed land management plans in areas where Canada Lynx reside. Although Canada Lynx in Minnesota are the same species as their counterparts in Canada and Alaska, they occur at much lower densities and appear to lack strong population cycles.

  Conservation Efforts in Minnesota

Currently, the U.S. Forest Service conducts annual winter track surveys to monitor the Canada Lynx population in the Superior National Forest. Hair and/or scat collected during these surveys are used for DNA analysis. The Minnesota DNR also conducts annual winter track surveys as part of a carnivore monitoring program.


Andrew Herberg (MNDNR), 2018

(Note: all content ©MNDNR)

  References and Additional Information

Aubry, K. B., G. M. Koehler, and J. R. Squires. 2000. Ecology of Canada lynx in southern boreal forests. Pages 373-396 in L. F. Ruggiero, K. B. Aubry, S. W. Buskirk, G. M. Koehler, C. J. Krebs, K. S. McKelvey, and J. R. Squires, editors. Ecology and conservation of lynx in the United States. University Press of Colorado, Boulder. 350 pp.

Henderson, C. 1977. Minnesota Canada lynx status report, 1977. Section of Wildlife, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, St. Paul. 22 pp.

Ivan, J. S. 2011. Monitoring Canada Lynx in Colorado using occupancy estimation: initial implementation in the core lynx research area. Wildlife Research Report, Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, Fort Collins. 11 pp.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 2003. Field guide to the native plant communities of Minnesota: the Laurentian mixed forest province. Ecological Land Classification Program, Minnesota County Biological Survey, and Natural Heritage and Nongame Research Program. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, St. Paul, Minnesota. 352 pp.

Moen, R. 2009. Canada lynx in the Great Lakes region. 2008 Annual Report. NRRI Technical Report No. NRRI/TR-2009/06.

Moen, R. 2009. Canada Lynx in the Great Lakes Region: 2009 annual report. NRRI Technical Report No. NRRI/TR-2009-40 Release 1.0, Center for Water and Environment, University of Minnesota, Duluth. 20 pp.

Moen, R., C. L. Burdett, and G. J. Niemi. 2008. Movement and habitat use of Canada Lynx during denning in Minnesota. Journal of Wildlife Management 72(7):1507-1513.

Moen R., G. Niemi, C. L. Burdett, and L. D. Mech. 2005. Canada lynx in the Great Lakes Region: 2005 annual report to USDA Forest Service, MN Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. NRRI Technical Report No. NRRI/TR-2006-16. Center for Water and Environment, University of Minnesota, Duluth. 31 pp.

Mowat, G., and B. Slough. 2003. Habitat preference of Canada lynx through a cycle in snowshoe hare abundance. Canadian Journal of Zoology 81(10):1736-1745.

Squires, J. R., N. J. DeCesare, L. E. Olson, J. A. Kolbe, M. Habblewhite, and S. A. Parks. 2013. Combining resource selection and movement behavior to predict corridors for Canada lynx at their southern range periphery. Biological Conservation 157:187-195.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2000. Endangered and threatened wildlife and plants; determination of threatened status for the contiguous U.S. distinct population segment of the Canada lynx and related rule. Federal Register, Rule 65 FR 16051. 36 pp.

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