Thursday, March 5, 2020

A Glimpse of Adirondack Lynx

Canada Lynx by Jacob W Frank National Park ServiceBig cats such as panthers, tigers and lions are often featured in popular media. With their great strength, size, and seemingly endless confidence, these felines command attention. There are other members of the Felidae family however that go more unnoticed.

Bobcats (Lynx rufus), Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis), Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), and the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus), although dispersed throughout most of the world, appear to share a similar ancestor, Lynx issiodorensis or Issoire lynx, which went extinct more than 12,000 years ago.

Physiologic similarities between Issoire lynx and lynx today are plentiful. Fossil evidence shows that the Issoire lynx (named for the town where the fossils were found), had stocky limbs and a large head and long neck. Species in genus Lynx today are typically smaller than these pre-glacial ancestors.

Like so many other misunderstood species, Canada lynx are often considered a threat. Habitat destruction, natural cycles of prey availability and trapping have made the lives of the lynx more difficult. Historically, Canada lynx have been present in the Adirondacks, but more recent studies have concluded there is no breeding population in New York State. It’s important to note however, that an occasional lynx may be spotted. Lynx have a habit of traveling great distances during their lifetimes and claiming large territories. Bold lynx will cross the Canadian border from the north, looking for territory in the United States.

In 1989-1991, faculty at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science & Forestry led an effort to release 83 lynx in the Adirondacks. Of those whose fates are known, nineteen were killed by cars and 8 by hunting; two lynx starved and two were killed by other predators.   According to the Adirondack Ecological Center, lynx didn’t reestablish because they travel widely and failed to reproduce adequately to offset their mortality.  The fate of over half the lynx is unknown, but the ESF-DEC project leaders viewed highway mortality and long-distance dispersal as the major issue.  Today, there are no plans to reintroduce Canada lynx, but keep those trail cams on for a straying neighbor form the north.

Lynx live rather solitary lives except late in the winter when males begin looking for a mate, usually between February and March. Female territories are often completely encompassed by that of a male. Estrus is induced once a year and typically females have just one litter of two or three kittens. Kittens depend on their mother’s care, and are typically weened by the age of ten months. Nurturing the kittens to independence is left completely to their mother, who shows them how to hunt, while the father remains focused on territorial upkeep.

After the kittens mature and become more solitary, they will go on to feed primarily on hare, rabbit, and other small mammals, along with birds and fish. In the north, snowshoe hare and Canada lynx share an important relationship. The hare are a substantial food source for lynx, and the fates of the two species are intertwined. Some populations of Canada lynx rely almost completely on snowshoe hare. As hare populations increase, lynx have more food, and more kittens. More kittens mean less snowshoe hare. The feedback loop results in a fascinating dynamic stability.

During an average 15-year life span, Canada lynx will claim territories up to 300 square kilometers, (about 115 square miles). The Canada lynx is federally listed as a Threatened Species in the U.S.  USFWS currently considering their de-listing.  Lynx are also listed as Threatened in New York State.


Lynx live their solitary lives mostly far from the Adirondacks, but if you catch a glimpse of one, be sure to report your sighting to the DEC.

Corrections have been made to this story to adjust the dates and number of lynx released, specify better what happened to them, and add to their their threatened status.

Connor John Schmitz graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh with a degree in Ecology. He lived in Nepal from 2017 to 2019 as an agriculture volunteer with the US Peace Corps.

Photo of Canada Lynx by Jacob W. Frank, National Park Service.

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The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with an interest in the Adirondack Park. Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor Melissa Hart at

25 Responses

  1. Jim Fox says:

    Interesting! I like articles like this. The recent possum article was a keeper, too.

  2. Eagleye Nye says:

    Nice article. We think one of the major factors in the failure of the ESF/DEC release effort was the significant dispersal of the lynx from the release area and subsequent vehicle collisions. Well our neighboring state of Maine does have a small Lynx population, climate change probably makes it less likely that Lynx have a future in New York state. One small correction, links are not listed as endangered by the federal government. Lynx were listed as threatened by the federal government and DEC in 2000. A recent proposal by the US fish and wildlife service in 2018, proposed to d-list the lynx entirely. To my knowledge, this has not officially occurred yet.

    • Suzanne says:

      From what I’ve read, releasing Lynx from Alaska was a big failure. There are miles of nothing but balsam forest from Newcomb to Blue Mountain Lake, with a few small villages in between, and a straight speedy highway all the way. Animals trapped and released in foreign territory should have known how to deal with totally new surroundings and a fast highway? A recipe for disaster, as we’ve seen. Woe betide any critter that gets in the way.

      • AG says:

        Yeah scientists have learned now that you have to keep them penned in – within the new environment for a while so they can get used to the immediate environs

  3. Boreas says:

    Beautiful animals! I wish the reintroduction would have been successful. Keep the articles coming!

  4. Orlando Valle Jr says:

    I think we may have a Lynx who has joined our neighborhood in the Town of Hammond,Maine just about 10 or so miles away from the Canadian border. I seen tracks in the snow and our neighbors down the Rd have also. I’ve also heard weird animal sounds as well as our neighbors.

  5. Marianne Gillette says:

    We had a Lynx in our driveway this past Fall. We have a rather long dirt driveway and the Lynx was just loping down it. Got a picture of the tracks and notified DEC. I live in Johnsburg.

  6. Ronald hall says:

    Lived on both sides the north country of New York and Vermont travel through the mountains going back-and-forth many many times and love the Adirondacks We had a camp at Sam pond near the independence river on the western slope’s for 10 years we’re so happy that the Adirondack Park agency kept it forever wild I love to read about it keep up the good work

  7. Pablo Rodriguez says:

    The lynx release was actually in 1989, not 1992, and was at ESF’s Newcomb campus. Few, if any, are believed to have survived. They’d been trapped in nearly-roadless Alaska and brought to the more populated Adirondacks. One sat calmly along a road in Saranac Lake as a snowplow bore down on it.

    • Boreas says:

      In hindsight there certainly were some problems in the methodology. In addition to more street-wise animals, perhaps another thing that would have helped would have been to drastically reduce the numbers released to fewer than 5 pairs total because of their range size, habitat preference, and food requirements. Perhaps they wouldn’t have wandered as much. One can only hope they can re-establish themselves, but many factors will be against them. Still waiting for one on my game camera!

  8. John Crump says:

    About five years ago while whitetail deer hunting in the town of Helena, N.Y. (Which is not far from the Canadian border.) I had the good fortune to see a Lynx. I was walking in to where my tree stand was set up and I had to cross the train tracks. As I was sneeking along getting ready to cross the tracks I made a short pause to look up and down the tracks. Much to my surprise coming down the tracks to my left at about 100 yards is a Lynx. It seemed as though it hadn’t seen me and walked within 20 yards of me. All of a sudden the wind swirled and began to hit me on the right side of my face and the Lynx just stopped. He was standing in the middle of the tracks just checking the wind about 20 yards from me. All at once it just squatted a little and it made a left turn off the tracks and into the forest. By the time I made it up the hill and on top of the tracks all that was left of the Lynx was tracks in the fresh snow.

  9. Charlie S says:

    Eagleye Nye says: “A recent proposal by the US fish and wildlife service in 2018, proposed to d-list the lynx entirely. ”

    Surely this would be good for the oil and gas corporations, and maybe even developers, as that would open up more land for them to rape, pollute, destroy…..

  10. Charlie S says:

    “One can only hope they can re-establish themselves, but many factors will be against them.”

    Man being the greatest of those factors aye Boreas?

  11. Charlie S says:

    I have never seen a lynx. What a beautiful animal! How can people have it in them to kill such a beautiful species? And trapping! How do some people sleep at night?

  12. Brad Casterline says:

    Thank you I all ways love to see story’s of the Adirondack mountains. Such a special place.

  13. MICHAEL says:

    I saw one when I lived in Wilmington years ago. Walked up on rear deck and peered in the sliding glass door.

  14. Brian Dumas says:

    Respect these cats , lynx and bobcats are beautiful and for the most part leave humans alone. Theres plenty of room for the cats and plenty for we humans. Competition is not a issue.

    • Dana says:

      Wouldn’t that be nice! Unfortunately humans refuse to keep our side of the ‘agreement’. Traps, guns, encroachment, and cars just don’t factor into that ideal.

      • Tim-Brunswick says:

        Wake up Dana…it was “trappers” who caught the lynx that were used in this so-called “re-introduction”.

        Trappers have worked cooperatively behind the scenes for many years with State/Federal wildlife agencies to procure animals for these type projects! The otter restoration project in western New York is one of many examples….however Heaven forbid we would give any appreciation to the lowly Trapper, who knows one heck of a lot more about wildlife and what makes it tick than the majority of folks who grace these pages/articles..

        Thank you!

  15. John Cussen says:

    I have actually seen one while now hunting for deer up state Newyork beautiful animal

  16. Joe Hovel says:

    A splendid creature indeed. In addition, if we thing across the ocean, I watched a film recently called Untamed Romania, they had some incredible footage of Eurasian Lynx. Not sure of which Latin name they fall in to.
    I now live south of Lake Superior, with occasional Lynx sightings and increasing number of cougar photographed on trail cameras. Talking to a native American from the Dakotas last summer, he said the cougar habitat was so disrupted by fracking and oil exploration, many have moved on looking for new habitat!

  17. Really appreciate learning the status of the Canadian Lynx in the Adirondacks.
    I have learned from the documentary CALL OF THE FOREST (thanks to Botanist Diana Beresford-Kroger), that the Adirondacks is an extension of the Boreal Forests of Canada, which she is out to preserve. She considers these forests to be as valuable to ensuring we have a livable planet, as the Rainforests at the equator.

    I am sure she would welcome knowing the ecosystem of the Adirondacks is including the Canadian Lynx!

    She herself is Canadian, living on a farm in Ontario, but originally from the UK/Ireland.

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