We discuss ecological theory and population models pertinent to the population biology of southern lynx. Fragmented forest cover types, high vagility of lynx, and linkages in population dynamics suggest that lynx in the contiguous United States are arranged as metapopulations. Metapopulation stability depends on not only habitat quality but also dispersal rates between habitat islands. Models indicate that dispersal rates between habitat islands should sharply decrease as the islands become smaller and more distant and the risks associated with crossing between islands increase. Southern lynx populations may fluctuate, which affects both rates of extinction and colonization of habitat islands. Synchronous population fluctuations can decrease the viability of metapopulations. Southern habitat islands probably are source-sink mosaics that shift with disturbance and succession. Models indicate that temporally transient habitat may be underutilized by organisms. Lagged synchronous patterns observed in both northern and southern populations suggest broad connectivity between subpopulations, but empirical data are lacking and some subpopulations may be isolated. Models that combine dispersal into spatial predator-prey models generate similar patterns, and dispersal can provide a synchronizing mechanism. We emphasize the dangers associated with ignoring either local habitat quality or regional connectivity.