After years of litigation, one of North America’s imperiled wildcats, the Canada lynx, is now federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. But conservation groups say not enough of the cat’s habitat is protected under the law, especially in the Northwest.
Lynx resemble bobcats with very furry paws and short tails. They thrive in dense boreal forests, where they can easily hunt snowshoe hare.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has now listed all Canada lynx in the lower 48 as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Since 2000, most of the cats have been listed as threatened, but that listing excluded lynx in New Mexico.
Conservation groups say the updated listing is good news for the cats. But they say not enough of the lynx habitat is protected. The groups say the cats historically roamed throughout the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and Washington and also expanded into Idaho.
Drew Kerr, the carnivore advocate with Wild Earth Guardians, said his group intends to sue the service to get more habitat protected.
“It’s just as important for a species like this to protect the habitat it is completely reliant on, as it is to protect the species itself,” Kerr said.
The Fish and Wildlife Service said it could not comment on possible litigation.
Jim Zelenak, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, said lynx population in different habitats often fluctuates, depending on how many snowshoe hare are in the area. He said some areas aren’t able to support lynx for long periods.
“In the critical habitat designation, we’re really trying to tease out those areas that have been capable and are currently capable of supporting lynx overtime,” Zelenak said.