Plants and Animals

Lynx canadensis Lynx

Key Characteristics

The lynx is a medium-sized cat 2.5 to 4 feet long with girzzled, silvery-gray fur, prominent, long black ear tufts (2 inches long), and a short stubby tail that is completely black at the tip. Tracks are large, averaging 3.7 inches wide and 4.5 inches long for front paws and 3 x 3.1 inches for rear paws. Pads are usually round and unlobed; unlike canids (dogs), all felid (cat) tracks generally have no claw marks.

Status and Rank

US Status: LT - Listed Threatened
State Status: E - Endangered (legally protected)
Global Rank: G5 - Secure
State Rank: S1 - Critically imperiled


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Keweenaw 1 1979
Mackinac 2 2003
Marquette 1 2022

Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


Lynx prefer dense, mature stands of boreal forest and other conifer or mixed-conifer stands. They will inhabit second growth forests, and even will tolerate small clear-cuts as long as adjacent blocks of mature conifer stands are left. Lynx utilize large hollow logs, over turned stumps, and thick brush for den sites.

Natural Community Types

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Management Recommendations

Any management that promotes snowshoe hare populations while retaining large blocks of conifers on the larger landscape will likely benefit this species. It is quite shy of humans, so areas of minimal intrusion (roads, snowmobile trails, campsites, etc.) should be maintained. The species is still threatened by illegal poaching, natural population lows combined with continued human-induced mortality, mismanagement of mature coniferous forests, and incidental trapping.

Active Period

Breeding from first week of February to fourth week of May

Survey Methods

Conduct track surveys during winter snow cover. Preys primarily on snowshoe hare.

Track surveys

Survey Period: From first week of December to fourth week of March


Survey References

  • Kurta, A. 1995. Mammals of the Great Lakes Region. The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.
  • Wilson, D.E., F.R. Cole, J.D. 1996. Measuring and Monitoring Biological Diversity - Standard Methods for Mammals. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C.

Technical References

  • Baker, R.H. 1983. Michigan Mammals. Michigan State University Press, East Lansing.
  • Evers, D.C. 1994. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife of Michigan. The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor. 412pp.
  • Kurta, A. 1995. Mammals of the Great Lakes Region. The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.