All is quiet on the Wolverine front. Stations are set, and if I am silent enough, late at night, I believe I can hear the whizzing and clicking of the motion-detected camera, affixed to a lodgepole pine at 5,531 feet elevation, under a thick grey sky and the constant coercion of mountain winds. A snowflake tumbles whimsically down, the forest sounds are muffled in snowy insulation, and with a faint hum the sensors alight as a short, furry mustelid carves footprints into the snow approaching the bait tree. It is hungry, and climbing toward sustenance…
But for now, we will need to wait and see whether it is all just a dream or not. And, for now, I have felines on the brain, due in part to recent trappings and radio-collaring of the federally threatened Lynx. So this week’s blog will feature the Canadian Lynx as our second in the series, Cool Carnivore Critters.
The Canadian Lynx (Lynx canadensis) is built for the northland. Huge paws, nearly twice as big as its cousin, the bobcat, help this animal float on top of the snow. A thick fur coat transforms with the seasons into excellent camouflage, and hides the lynx as it goes about its life. With a body size of 18-24 inches high, 30-36 inches long, and weighing in at about 20 pounds, the lynx is slightly larger than a very large house cat.
At elevations above 4,000 feet, the lynx prowls from dusk until dawn through subalpine fir, spruce and lodgepole pine forests. Her den is in a mature forest stand, where the thick canopy and large downed debris protect her from severe weather. As the sun sets she awakes, hungry, and approaches the boarders of this stand where disturbances and other phenomenon have setback the successional development of the forest to an earlier sere; the trees are younger and shorter and there is more bare ground and more shrubbery. Here is the home territory of the lynx’s primary food source: the snowshoe hare.
Abundance of snowshoe hare, in combination with other variables, influence mortality rates as well as birth rates for the Canadian Lynx. When snowshoe hare populations are scarce, lynx may feed on grouse, owl, squirrel, mice, voles, fisher, red fox, ungulates, and carrion. Predators of the lynx include wolves, mountain lions, and wolverines.
Typically, a mother lynx bears litters of one to two kittens. Kittens are born from May to July, and stay with their mother for 9-10 months, over their first winter, to nurse and to learn how to hunt. When they leave their mothers, they may disperse up to six miles. Although lynx are generally solitary except during reproduction and mating, a female may remain in contact with her offspring throughout her lifetime. Home territories for lynx vary greatly depending on sex, prey abundance, topography, etc, ranging from 9-136 square miles. Lynx are estimated to cover distances of up to 600 miles in their travels.
Recently, two incidences of trappers accidentally catching lynx have occurred in our region. The Canadian Lynx is protected federally, listed as Threatened in our area by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These trappers did the right thing by notifying the appropriate agency officials. Read more about that story at this link.
Keep listening for more clicks and hums up in the mountains, and check in again with us next week!!! Thank you Friends, for all that you do!