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  • Photo by New Hampshire Fish & Game
    Fish and Game wildlife biologist Will Staats points out the size of Canada lynx tracks.
  • Photo by Peter Abdu and Cameron Ehle
    A male Canada lynx was photographed by an automatic trail camera in the fall of 2011.
Saturday, December 10, 2011

Breeding populations of Canada lynx now in New Hampshire

NASHUA – The discovery of four Canada lynx kittens in northern New Hampshire has provided solid evidence that breeding populations of the wild cat have expanded here from Maine.

New Hampshire Fish and Game officials said Friday that four lynx were seen and photographed in two locations in Pittsburg on two dates in November and December. It’s unknown whether the four individuals were the same, but officials said this seems likely.

“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 reliant on snowshoe hare as a food source. There are an estimated 600-1,200 lynx in Maine, concentrated in the northern part of the state.

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.

Lynx are larger than bobcats, which are well-established in New Hampshire, and recognizable by the long tufts of hair on their ears and their large furry paws that help them travel on deep snow.

Canada lynx live in more northern climates than bobcats.

New Hampshire has long been at the far southern edge of their range.

“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,” Fish and Game wildlife biologist Will Staats said.

“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 in which lynx tracks have been seen and photographed in New Hampshire’s North Country. Last spring, Staats witnessed an adult lynx crossing a rural road up north.

Coincidentally, Fish and Game’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program recently received funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to start lynx surveys, officials said.

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.

Because of lynx’s reliance on snowshoe hare, their preferred habitat is young, regenerating forests.