The lynx is a medium-sized short-tailed cat with thick fur for which it has been harvested for more than 200 years being consistently one of the top three British Columbia furbearers. Over these years, a trend presented itself; approximately every 10 years, a peak in lynx harvests has been recorded. These highs were followed by lows before peaking again.
In British Columbia, lynxes occur over most of the province (not on the coastal islands and rarely in the wet forests west of the Coast Range and the Lower Mainland west of Hope). The most important factor determining the lynx habitat is its primary prey the snowshoe hare. When the number of snowshoe hares goes up, we notice an increase in the number of lynx. This hare is found to be the the primary prey to lynx in all seasons. To illustrate: when these hares are abundant in a certain area, they usually constitute 80 percent or more of lynx diet, especially in winter. When hare densities tend to be lower, other common prey species such as red squirrels, grouse and voles are eaten frequently, and lynx predation on Dall’s Sheep, caribou, red fox, marten, mink and even other lynx has been recorded.
Lynx are essentially solitary, except when in family groups (mother and kittens) and during the breeding season when adult pairs may travel together for a few days. We can distinguish two social classes: residents and transients. Residents occupy distinct territories which hardly overlap where transients are wandering around looking for stable home areas (mostly dispersing juveniles and displaced full grown cats). Movements take place most part during nighttime and is related to availability of prey.
The lynx breeding season is in March and early April, and the young are born in late May or early June following. Their reproductive potential depends on availability of prey, again, mainly hare. Litters average around four to five young. When kittens are born, they remain with the mother through at least the first winter and occasionally into the next autumn before dispersing.
Lynx have been found to host a number of different parasites, both internal and external, but no chronic health problems associated with parasite infestations and no major disease outbreaks that would threaten populations have been documented . The most common cause of natural mortality has been nutrition-related.
There is a distinct cycle of lynx abundance, with peaks approximately every 10 years. Population peaks do not occur in all areas of the of the continent at the same time. However, lynx cycles are in relationship with the 10 year cycle of the snowshoe hare. When hares are abundant, adult lynx may be relatively secure. In British Columbia, the highest numbers are attained in the boreal and sub-boreal forests in the inland northern half of the province.
The general goals of harvest management are to substitute harvest for natural mortality wherever possible, to minimize the catch of adult females and to minimize the pressure on prey populations. During the low of the population cycle, it is advised to release adult females, use selective trap sets, stop trapping early and reduce competition. At the operational level there are three main approaches that may be used to harvest from them sustainably: a quota, time-based and an area based system.
Regarding planning and information, it is important to take into consideration the vulnerability to harvest, food abundance, timing and the competition for harvest. When monitoring and assessing the lynx harvest, it is advised to keep track of the sex and age of animals caught, the location and date of the harvest, signs of family groups and the physical condition of the animals caught. Furthermore, it is recommended to keep the information for record keeping and compulsory reporting.
The lynx and its primary prey, the snowshoe hare, are both forest-dwelling species and the largest potential negative on habitat, in most areas, result from the activities of the forest industry. Therefore, it is important for lynx trappers and hunters to establish and maintain good working relationships with habitat managers and operators on their areas, and to take every opportunity to provide input and advice on development plans.
The lynx has long been one of the most valuable and important furbearers in British Columbia. The dominant feature of its life history, and of related management, is its primary dependence on one prey species, the snowshoe hare. When hare numbers decline, the dependent lynx enter a period of relative stress, manifested at the individual or population level by reduced physical condition increased activity and movements, increased home range size or abandonment of home ranges, decreased productivity, poor kitten survival, and increased incidence of starvation.
- Evergreen Stewardship Plan for Lillooet Sub Region
- Evergreen Stewardship Plan for South Chilcotin Sub Region
- Source David F. Hatler and Alison M.M. Beal. May 2003. Lynx (Lynx canadensis). Available at : https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/sports-recreation-arts-and-culture/outdoor-recreation/fishing-and-hunting/hunting/trapping/lynx.pdf [Accessed 03/2021].