Dr. Oakley and the Wild Life Preserve team try to corral four lynx kittens for their first vaccinations on this week’s episode of Yukon Vet. Dr. Oakley’s love for animals and desire to keep them healthy extends not just to the animals in our homes, but to the animals that need extra care in the wild. The lynx, which is one of only a few species of wild cats in North America, is also one of the rarest.
The Elusive Lynx
Lynx are found in remote forests in North America, Europe, and Asia. These cats have thick silvery fur, black ear tufts, and are bigger than a bobcat, but smaller than a cougar. The Canada lynx, which is the smallest lynx species, is found through the boreal forest of Alaska and Canada, but in the rest of the United States they are only found near the Canadian Border in Washington, Idaho, Montana and Maine. They have also been reintroduced in Colorado’s mountains. They are a solitary cat with a thick coat and oversized feet that serve them well in the cold winter habitats where they thrive. However, they are shy animals that hunt at night and are rarely seen.
Skilled hunters, lynx have excellent eyesight and are said to be able to spot a mouse 250 feet (75 meters) away. They also have superb hearing. They are not particularly fast, because it can be difficult to hunt in the snow. So, lynx are excellent at the art of ambush. Canada lynx eat mice, squirrels, and birds, but their main prey is snowshoe hare. In fact, lynx are so reliant on snowshoe hare that an absence of hare can cause their numbers to decline. The biggest challenge the lynx face is humans, however. Humans have historically hunted lynx for their lush coats.
Lynx are the scarcest of the North American cat species, with only a few hundred animals suspected to remain in the Lower 48. Like many of the animals in the boreal forest and elsewhere, they have suffered from human activities such as logging, roadbuilding, and development. Human disruption and destruction of habitat have severely fragmented their hunting grounds. The lynx are also put at a disadvantage by roads and snowmobile trails, which give coyotes and cougars access to their territory and the ability to turn the lynx into prey. The packed-snow roadways also allow bobcat to hunt and compete for the same food sources. In general, it isn’t easy being a lynx. They live in habitat where winter hunting can be lean, and winters are extremely long.
In the lower 48 states, lynx are considered threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has concluded the primary reason lynx populations are faltering in the contiguous United States is because of a lack of guidance to conserve the species in current Federal land management plans. The forests habitats are constantly changing and require careful planning to be maintained to provide sufficient habitat. Collaborations with forest and wildlife managers in British Columbia will also be necessary because the lynx doesn’t recognize the 49 degree latitude as an ecological boundary. USFWS states, “The cooperation and coordination of private citizens, industry, State, Federal, and tribal groups will be necessary to recover Canada lynx and ensure the lynx remains a special and unique part of our wildlife heritage.” There is no question the Dr. Oakley is doing her part to assist!
Tune in this week to Dr. Oakley Yukon Vet: The Missing Lynx on Saturday December 13, 9PM et/pt and get a peek at four adorable lynx kittens that will help the future of the population!