A stocky, medium-sized cat, the lynx is distributed throughout the Northern hemisphere. There are four species of lynx worldwide, but only two in North America.
The Canadian lynx Lynx canadensis, Iberian lynx Lynx pardinus, and Eurasian lynx Lynx Lynx look remarkably similar, but have different behavioral adaptations to suit life in their different parts of the world. The Canadian lynx and the bobcat Lynx rufus can be found in North America.
The other lynx species look similar to bobcats but can be told apart by examining the tail. Both species have short tails, but the lynx is black at the tip. In contrast, the bobcat’s tail tip is black on top.
The largest lynx are Eurasian specimens from Siberia. They live on Arctic hares and other mammals several times bigger than themselves, such as reindeer.
Snow can be advantageous to a hunting lynx since deer can become bogged down and easier to catch. The lynx has feet that are large and furry, so its weight is spread over a larger area, allowing it to run across snow without sinking.
The Iberian and Canadian lynx are about half the size of the Eurasian lynx and generally hunt smaller prey.
The Canadian lynx feeds almost exclusively on snowshoe hares, and its numbers fluctuate from year to year according to the availability of the hares. Iberian lynx mainly feed on mammals such as rabbits, although they are also able to catch birds and fish, hooking them out of the air or water with a swipe of their sharp claws.
For the smaller lynx, one rabbit per day is sufficient, but larger lynx eat much more Having killed a big animal such as a deer, they will drag it to safety, eat what they can, and then cache the rest for later.
Lynx almost always hunt on their own, although mothers have sometimes been seen helping their fully grown young to hunt. Newly independent lynx sometimes team up with a sibling for the first few months after leaving their mother’s care to help ensure their survival.
Female lynx mature faster than males and can be capable of breeding within their first year. However, few do so because breeding is regulated by habitat availability.
Lynx do not breed until they have found a suitable home range where it will be possible to rear young. Where the habitat is greatly restricted, adult lynx may never get the opportunity to breed.
Of the four hundred Iberian lynx left in the wild fewer than a third are thought to be breeding females, making them one of the world’s most endangered cats.
Canadian and Eurasian lynx are faring better, although both have been extensively hunted in the past. Lynx fur is dense and luxurious, and several thousand animals are still legally shot or trapped yearly for their fur.