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Could be introduced to Yellowstone

Canada Lynx

Canada Lynx could be reintroduced in Yellowstone area

At the end of 2023, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) produced a Draft Recovery Plan (DRP) for Canada Lynx in the U.S. that includes the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) as an option of refuge for the species.

Lynx, while in the same family as the bobcat, are distinguishable due to their longer ear-tufts, larger feet and black-tipped tail. Lynx were listed as threatened in the U.S. under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2000 due to the “inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms on some Federal lands to provide for the conservation of lynx habitats and populations at that time.”

The USFWS also notes that projected global climate warming will likely impact the ability to conserve lynx and their habitats in the contiguous U.S., which makes up the southern range periphery for lynx and their primary prey, the snowshoe hare. Both species usually occur in much smaller numbers and at lower densities in the contiguous U.S. compared to the rest of their range across Canada to Alaska.

While “occasional lynx occurrence and reproduction” have been documented in the GYA, USFWS Public Affairs Specialist Joe Szuszwalak tells Buckrail that there’s still uncertainty around whether or not the GYA historically supported a resident population of lynx. Szuszwalak does confirm that recent surveys and research show the GYA does not currently have a breeding lynx population.

Yet the DRP lists the GYA as a potential “climate refugium” going forward, which Szuszwalak explains means the GYA is predicted to maintain colder temperatures longer than most other parts of the DPS range. If a lynx population could be established in the Wyoming Range in the southern part of the GYA that was identified as primary potential habitat in the USFWS’s evaluation, it could potentially experience longer-term survival in the face of global warming.

Along with the settlement, the Montana Free Press reported that the USFWS “no longer intends to submit a proposed rule to delist lynx.”

Szuszwalak says the USFWS additionally updated the Species Status Assessment for Canada lynx with new information since the 2018 five-year review, which now includes the potential threat climate change is posing to the species.

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Photo: Courtesy of USFWS

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