If you’ve ever dreamed of a gargantu-sized housecat, you have probably been dreaming of the Canadian lynx. And if you’re as desperate to see one of these 20-inch tall, 20-pound wild cats, as LazyPaw Animal Hospitals is on our virtual world tour, you’re likely to keep dreaming—the Canada lynx avoids human contact and is tough to spot.
In Canada, lynxes have long tufts of black hair that spring from the tips of their ears, a short tail with a black end, and tall, thin legs. They have sly, light eyes and large, rounded paws.
They’re hunters of the showshoe hare, surviving on one kill every two or three days on average. Because lynxes aren’t especially fast on their feet, they catch prey by watching and waiting, using their superb vision and hearing to pounce on prey. Lynxes can spot a mouse moving from up to 250 feet away, and their black ear tufts make their super hearing skills even stronger. That’s part of why they can steer clear of humans—they know we’re coming!
The lynx is so dependent on hare hunting that if showshoe populations dip, lynx populations closely mirror their drop in numbers. Adult lynxes are equipped to cope with natural hare shortages that occur about once per decade, but their cubs are not, making survival for larger litters difficult. Litter sizes range from one to six, but when hares are rare lynxes may skip procreation altogether.
Canada lynxes live in forested areas, building dens under fallen trees, tree stumps, rock ledges, or thicker bushes. Because the animals are more territorial than social, male lynxes live alone and only spend time with others during the breeding season.
Cougars, wolves, and coyotes prey on lynxes, but their biggest threat is the fur trade. Humans have hunted so many lynxes for fashion that in the 1990s the species hit a serious decline, leading to their protection. In the late 90s, lynxes were relocated to the southern Rocky Mountains, and today researchers say the population is doing well. According to Canada’s branch of the International Society for Endangered Cats, the population overall has stabilized thanks to protective laws.