It’s getting cold outside and while many animals are snapping up the last of the food and heading for hibernation, there are some animals that are made for the snow and cold. The Canada lynx, found both in the Colorado wilderness and at the Pueblo Zoo, is one such species.
The lynx’s long, dense fur keeps it toasty warm in the cold. Its paws are large and padded, spread out widely, and covered in dense fur so they act much like snowshoes helping the animal get around easily on the surface of deep snow.
This is one key difference between Canada lynx and bobcats (also of the lynx genus); bobcats are smaller and have narrower feet that don’t perform as well in the snow.
Another distinctive feature of all lynx are ear tufts. However, it is not really clear what the tufts are for. Some think they may help with hearing or are used as a sensor, much the same as whiskers.
The primary prey of Canada lynx is snowshoe hare. Interestingly, the fluctuations of the two populations are closely linked due to the predatory relationship. The “lynx-hare cycle” is about 8 to 11 years, where a peak in hare population is followed about two years later with a peak in lynx population. Conversely, when the hare population declines, it is followed by a decline in lynx numbers.
Though Colorado seems to be a natural fit for Canada lynx, the state’s native population was lost to trapping, poisoning and development in the 1970s.
Reintroduction efforts were launched in 1997 when the state’s Division of Wildlife began releasing the cats in the San Juan Mountains; those lynx originated in Alaska and Canada. By 2010, the program was deemed a success, becoming one of the most high-profile carnivore reintroduction programs in North America.
Puebloans can get a close-up look at a Canada lynx by visiting Kaya in the zoo’s Woods area.
On cold days, she can be very active and vocal.
She also has not lost her hunting instinct, so stray birds and squirrels enter her territory at their own peril. Generally, she follows that up by doing what most cats do — napping.