Lynx: non-detriment finding

Published 2007-10-25 - Revised 2014-02-017

RE: Lynx canadensis (Lynx) Non-Detriment Finding for Canada

Summary of finding:

Export of legally obtained wild-harvested lynx is considered non-detrimental.

  • Lynx is harvested primarily as a furbearer species under the authorization of trapping permit or licenses. Canadian export trade is primarily in whole pelts. Targeted or incidental harvest of lynx occurs in 10 of 12 range provinces and territories (Northwest Territories, Yukon Territory, Nunavut, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador). Lynx harvest is prohibited in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Lynx were extirpated from Prince Edward Island (0.1% of original range) in the late 1800s.
  • Lynx is not considered a species at risk in Canada. The Committee on the Status of Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) designated lynx as "not at risk" in Canada in 1989, and reaffirmed this assessment in 2001. Similarly, the General Status of Species in Canada 2010 classifies lynx as secure in Canada. Jurisdictions report a stable or increasing population trends, as estimated through the annual monitoring of harvest statistics and information gathered from harvested specimens. Further, no acute widespread threats to the species have been identified.
  • Like all vertebrates in Canada, this species is legally protected through various provincial and territorial wildlife acts. Under these acts, certain uses of Canadian wildlife are allowed under specific regulations and only with the provision of licenses or permits. Generally, without such a license, the catch, possession, trade, sale, disturbance or destruction of wildlife is prohibited.
  • Provincial and territorial governments develop wildlife management programs in order to realize specific desired outcomes, which usually involve a balancing of ecological, biological, cultural, and socio-economic factors. These activities are conducted with a goal toward long-term population sustainability, critical to ensuring wildlife's role in maintaining ecosystem biodiversity. Wildlife managers use the best available information (population size, birth and death rates, age and sex ratios, habitat quality and interactions between species) to assess the sustainability of management decisions. Decisions are guided by planning processes, policy, legislation, trends in historical and recent use and scientific information.

Supporting information:

Biological characteristics

The lynx is a long lived species with a low reproductive rate. The diet of the lynx may include a diversity of prey. However, the biology of the lynx, particularly in its northern range, is closely linked to the snowshoe hare, which is well-known for its population cycles. The lynx population also cycles, following the hare with a 1-2 year delay in population highs and lows. At cyclic peaks, lynx abundance is 3-17 fold higher then at cyclic lows. In its southern range, where hares do not tend to cycle, the lynx reproduction is stable at 2-3 individuals per 100 km2. Lynx are adapted to a wide variety of habitats. The lynx has very good dispersal efficiency and generally tends to avoid areas with human activity.

Status

The lynx has a wide distribution covering most of northern North America, with the species currently occupying 95% of its former Canadian range (approximately 5 500 000 km2). Most distribution changes have occurred along the southern edge of its range (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Southern Ontario and Eastern Quebec) due to human settlement and forest clearance.

Lynx is not considered a species at risk in Canada. The Committee on the Status of Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) designated lynx as "not at risk" in Canada in 1989, and reaffirmed this assessment in 2001, based on an updated status report. The General Status of Species in Canada 2010 classifies lynx as secure. At the provincial level, lynx is reported as secure or sensitive in all Canadian range provinces/territories except New Brunswick and Nova Scotia where it is at risk. NatureServe Canada assigned lynx a national status of N5 (demonstrably widespread abundant and secure).

A conservative estimate suggests that there may be approximately 110,000 lynx in Canada during the cyclic low. Population trends are inferred through the monitoring of harvest statistics. Canadian jurisdictions report stable or increasing population trends.

There is no widespread acute threat to the Canadian lynx population. Potential threats such as decline in prey populations, loss of habitat and habitat alteration are taken into account when jurisdictional harvest controls are set. If not already regulated, lynx harvest and land use changes would have the greatest potential to negatively impact Canadian lynx populations.

Harvest management

Management of lynx harvest in Canada is conducted with a goal toward long-term population sustainability and takes into account population immigration and emigration with the United States. Wildlife managers use the best available information to assess the sustainability of management decisions. Harvest of lynx occurs in 10 of 12 range provinces and territories (Northwest Territories, Yukon Territory, Nunavut, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland). Lynx harvest is prohibited in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick although incidental capture occasionally occurs.

Lynx is managed through various provincial and territorial wildlife acts. Under specific regulations, the catch, possession, trade, sale, disturbance or destruction of lynx is allowed only with the provision of licenses or permits. Lynx is harvested primarily as a furbearer species under a system of registered trapping lines. National coordination and communication occurs via the Canadian Furbearer Management Committee, which includes fur manager representatives from all jurisdictions. In addition the Fur Institute of Canada, to which all provinces and territories are a member, acts as a national umbrella organization for the fur industry across Canada. Limited hunting of lynx is also allowed in British Columbia.

Jurisdictional management strategies for lynx vary, ranging from formal approved management plans to informal general wildlife management policy/procedures. In all jurisdictions, the management of lynx includes a combination of area based systems (regions, management units, zones) and time based systems (seasons) that is adaptive to the cyclical nature of lynx population fluctuations. These systems are reviewed annually and adjusted to indices of prey abundance and harvest trends. Mandatory trapper education and reporting of all take (intended or incidental) is required as a condition of licensing. In some areas with settled land claims, beneficiaries have exclusive rights to trap all furbearers and Wildlife Management Boards have been established as the primary instruments of wildlife management in the settlement areas.

Control of harvest

Lynx harvested from the wild in Canada account for most of the global fur trade in this species. There is very limited trade in other lynx parts (trophy, meat, teeth, tails, etc.) or for captive bred lynx. Since 1999, Canada has provided wild caught lynx for a re-introduction program in Colorado, United States of America (U.S.A.)

Each provincial administrative region is divided into management units or zones in which wildlife harvest is managed through specific regulation based on the ecological characteristics of the territory or on local conditions. In all jurisdictions, provincial wildlife/conservation officers monitor compliance with the regulations of the jurisdiction (e.g. harvest seasons and zoning system). The proportion of trapping occurring on crown land and public land varies with jurisdiction.

The large majority of lynx pelts are sold and exported through three auction houses, two in Ontario and one in British Columbia. Provincial enforcement staff work very closely with the auction houses to ensure all pelts sold have legally left the province/territory of origin (with a provincial export permit) and are accurately reported. These systems compliment controls occurring at the harvest level and provide an overall confidence in the high level of compliance with Canadian harvest and permit requirements.

Harvest trend

Data on the harvest of lynx in Canada is available from the 1820s to the present. Throughout the 1800s, the harvest peaks were fairly consistent with harvest varying from 10,000 (at cyclic lows) to 70,000 (at cyclic highs) pelts per year. Trappers were disinclined to increase trapper effort during cyclic lows, providing some protection at the time where sustainability of the lynx was most vulnerable. By the early 1900s, cyclic highs were declining due to over trapping and by 1948, the market had crashed. When new regulations and trap line management programs were introduced in the 1950s, cycle peaks returned to near historic levels for several decades. These measures were effective until high pelt prices in the late 1970s provided incentive to increase trapper effort during cyclic lows. Following the adoption of management regimes in the 1980s, the annual Canadian lynx harvest is now in the order of 5,000 - 10,000 pelts per year.

Harvest monitoring

Where harvest is permitted, a license or permit is required for the catch, possession, sale and export of lynx. The regulations also include specific provisions attached to the license/permit making submission of harvest and/or sale reports mandatory. In some provinces/territories, tagging, inspection and/or the submission of carcasses are also required. All jurisdictions monitor harvest and prey in order to establish appropriate controls (seasons, etc.) on an annual basis.

Incentives and benefits of harvest

Management of furbearer species in Canada is in many ways a partnership between governments and the trappers. The sense of shared ownership by harvesters increases awareness and a stewardship attitude towards both the lynx and its habitat. Trappers are known as excellent sources of conservation information due to their closeness and frequent contact with their chosen harvesting areas. In that sense, there is a conservation benefit from harvesting, although it may not be a directly measurable or monetary benefit.

Protection from harvest

The portion of lynx natural range legally excluded from harvest includes most of the protected areas (parks, reserves, etc.), and the provincial regions/zones/management units where harvest is not allowed. Other protections are outlined in the description of current management practice. Mandatory trapper education is a condition of licensing in many jurisdictions.

Other relevant information

Jurisdictional summary:
Province Species present Harvest occuring General Status
2010
Harvest Regulations
British Columbia Y Y 4 - Secure Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Management Branch
Alberta Y Y 3 - Sensitive Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
Saskatchewan Y Y 3 - Sensitive Ministry of the Environment
Manitoba Y Y 4 - Secure Conservation and Water Stewardship
Ontario Y Y 4 - Secure Ministry of Natural Resources
Quebec Y Y 4 - Secure Natural Resources
New Brunswick Y N 1 - At Risk Natural Resources
Nova Scotia Y N 1 - At Risk Wildlife and Biodiversity
Prince Edward Island N N 0.1 - Extirpated Island Information
Newfoundland and Labrador Y Y 4 - Secure Department of Environment and Conservation
Nunavut Y Y 5 - Undetermined Nunavut
Northwest Territories Y Y 4 - Secure Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Yukon Y Y 4 - Secure Environment Yukon
Canada blank blank 4 - Secure blank

Additional information on Lynx in Canada:

Poole, K.G. (2003). A review of the Canada lynx, Lynx Canadensis, in Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist 117(3):360-376.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada

The General Status of Species in Canada

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: