Concord, NH – Fish and Game biologists have confirmed the presence of four Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) in northern New Hampshire. The fact that the lynx appeared to be kittens is evidence that the wild cats are breeding in N.H., an expansion of the population across the border in Maine.
In November and December 2011, four lynx were seen and photographed in two locations in Pittsburg, N.H., on two different dates. It is unknown whether the four individuals were the same on the two occasions, but it seems likely based on the close proximity of the sightings.
“The presence of lynx in New Hampshire demonstrates the effectiveness of the wildlife and habitat work that’s been done in this region over many years. It’s exciting!” said Fish and Game wildlife biologist Will Staats. “We expected the population to expand into the state eventually, and we’ve been seeing signs for a few years that they were at least passing through.” Since 2006, there have been seven cases where lynx tracks have been seen and photographed in New Hampshire’s North Country. In spring of this year, Staats himself witnessed an adult lynx crossing a rural road up north.
“Until now, we’ve considered lynx in New Hampshire to represent animals that were wandering from the larger lynx population that is present in Maine as a result of recent declines in snowshoe hare abundance,” said Anthony Tur, biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Lynx are highly reliant on snowshoe hare as a food source. There are an estimated 600 to 1,200 lynx in Maine, concentrated in the northern part of the state.
“Lynx are an amazing predator, and they were historically a small but significant part of the wildlife mix in New Hampshire,” said Steve Weber, Chief of Fish and Game’s wildlife division. In partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Weber stated, “We’re actively monitoring lynx in the state and taking steps to ensure the health and growth of the population.”
“Serendipitously, Fish and Game’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program recently received funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to initiate formal surveys for lynx,” John Kanter, Nongame Program coordinator, said. “The sightings add a note of excitement to our efforts. The Nongame Program’s recent fundraising appeal centered on the lynx project, and the timing of this discovery will hopefully help to engage more wildlife enthusiasts as supporters and donors to the program.”
Lynx are listed as “endangered” in New Hampshire and as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act. They occurred in small numbers in New Hampshire through the 1960s; the last documented lynx in New Hampshire was a road-killed animal found in 1993.
At about 3 feet long and 15-30 pounds, Canada lynx are at least twice the size of the average house cat. They have long, strong legs; short tails; prominent ear tufts; and long sideburn-style hair on the sides of their face. Lynx are often recognized by their huge, furry paws, which help them travel over deep snow. Because of lynx’s reliance on snowshoe hare, their preferred habitat is young, regenerating forests that offer excellent hare habitat. New Hampshire is at the southern end of the Canada lynx’s natural range. More information on lynx in the United States may be found at http://library.fws.gov/Pubs/lynx.pdf.