Yellowstone National Park Lynx

Adult lynx are about the size of a large domestic cat. Males can weigh upwards of 30 pounds, while females are smaller. Lynx have large legs and broad, well-furred paws, blunt tails, and prominent tufted ears. Lynx are generally grayish-brown with white, buff, or brown on the facial ruff and throat. Limited studies suggest that lynx breed in April or May, and give birth to three to five kittens in late May or June. Lynx are usually found in boreal forests and they tolerate deep snow quite well. They are commonly associated with snowshoe hares, but may also prey on squirrels, grouse and mice. The conifer forests, semi-open and rocky areas of the park seem to offer summer conditions suitable for both bobcats and lynx--adequate shelter, a variety of rodents, rabbits, hares, birds, and other small animals for food. Lynx survive similarly severe winter weather conditions in Canada. Research there has shown that bobcats, another native wildcat, and lynx are seldom found in the same area as bobcats are more aggressive and may dominate. Whether this behavioral factor may affect living conditions for lynx in Yellowstone is presently unknown.

The similarity between lynx and bobcats makes it difficult to determine their status in Yellowstone. A large adult bobcat may be larger than a small adult lynx, so size is not a good characteristic for positive identification. Both bobcats and lynx have ear tufts of black hair. Although lynx are more solidly gray and bobcats are often buffy and have many black spots, larger bobcats usually have fewer spots and some turn almost solidly gray in winter, so general coloration is also a difficult characteristic for distant identification. If you see one of these small wildcats and have time, good light, and binoculars, look at the inside of the cat's forelegs. There are no black bars there on a lynx, although there may be some dark spots. Also, the tip of the tail of a lynx is solidly black. (The upper side of a bobcat's tail has several dark bands that become more distinct toward the tip but the underside of the tip itself is white.)

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