Lynx specialization has led to evolution success but it might become a trap

From Smithsonian magazine:

In 2000, lynx were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Montana was thought to be home to about 3,000 animals, but it has become clear that the number is closer to 300. “The stronghold is not a stronghold. They are much rarer than we thought.”

In the vast northern boreal forests, lynx are relatively numerous; the population is densest in Alberta, British Columbia and the Yukon, and there are plenty in Alaska. Bobcats and mountain lions—culinary opportunists not overly dependent on a single prey species—are much more common in the lower 48.

Snowshoe hares constitutes 96 percent of its winter diet of the American lynx (Lynx canadensis). The other predators can move on to different prey, but of course the lynx, the naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton wrote in 1911, “lives on Rabbits, follows the Rabbits, thinks Rabbits, tastes like Rabbits, increases with them, and on their failure dies of starvation in the unrabbited woods.”

Lynx weigh about 30 pounds, a bit more than an overfed house cat, but their paws are the size of a mountain lion’s, functioning like snowshoes. They inhabit forest where the snow reaches up to the pine boughs, creating dense cover.

During hunts the cats leap so far that trackers have to look hard to spot where they land. A researcher once watched a lynx at the top of one tree sail into the branches of another “like a flying squirrel, like Superman—perfect form.”

Tracking the Elusive Lynx. Smithsonian magazine, February 2011.

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