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Managing forests and forest carnivores: Canada lynx and forest mosaics

Photo of GPS technology was instrumental in tracking lynx for this study.
GPS technology was instrumental in tracking lynx for this study. Snapshot : Differences in forest structure impact the ability of Canada lynx to produce kittens. Therefore, understanding how forest management and silviculture can improve the demography of Canada lynx is central to the species’ conservation on multiple-use lands.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Squires, John R. Olson, Lucretia E.
Graham, Russell T.  
Research Station : Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS)
Year : 2018
Highlight ID : 1517


Research Canada lynx, a federally-listed species, is sensitive to changes in forest structure. Forest structure influences prey such as snowshoe hares and ultimately the ability of Canada lynx to forage and produce kittens. Therefore, we need to understand how forest management can be used to further lynx conservation into the foreseeable future. In our research, we first investigated how lynx responded to changes in forest structure in terms of their habitat-use. We then evaluated how lynx responded to different silvicultural treatments in terms of years since harvest and tree-harvest methods. In addition, we assessed how changes in forest structure affected the ability of lynx to produce kittens and how forest management could be used to serve Canada lynx conservation efforts. This research required close collaboration between scientists, silviculturists, and wildlife biologists to achieve our goals. Together, we developed forest mapping tools based on remote sensing to map forest structure and composition across broad landscapes. We captured and instrumented Canada lynx with global positioning system (GPS) collars to accurately plot their movements and habitat use. By using the GPS technology, we were also able to locate dens and record the number of kittens each female produced over the years. Armed with this information, we built statistical models that not only predicted how lynx use forested landscapes, but also how forest structure related to a female’s ability to produce kittens. Key Findings -Canada lynx depend primarily on spruce-fir forests and a home range dominated by mature, multi-storied forest structures and intermediate amounts (e.g., 10 - 40 percent) of regenerating forests produced by forest management and natural disturbance. -Canada lynx use habitat treated by thinning approximately 20 years post-harvest, but it takes approximately 40 years of recovery for lynx to use regenerating forest treatments (clear-cuts and selection cuts). -Home ranges of Canada lynx are composed of a mosaic of forest structures, and the amount of connected mature forest ( ?50-60 percent)  is important to the ability of female lynx to produce kittens. -Canada lynx conservation and forest management are compatible within multiple-use lands, but a careful approach is needed that integrates both forest silviculture and species conservation.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Barry Bollenbacher – Regional Forester (Retired), R1, U. S. Forest Service
  • Gary Hanvey – Canada Lynx Wildlife Biologist, R1, U. S. Forest Service
  • Scott Jackson – National Carnivore Program Leader, U. S. Forest Service
  • Shelagh Fox, Regional Forester, R1, U. S. Forest Service
  • Dr. Joseph Holbrook - Forest Service - retired
  • Dr. Rick Lawrence - Spatial Sciences Center
  • Dr. Shannon Savage - Research Scientist