Canada Lynx Survey and Monitoring


The Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) was listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) on March 24, 2000. As such, federal agencies are required to utilize their authorities to carry out programs for the conservation and recovery of listed species. The Superior National Forest’s Land and Resource Management Plan contains conservation measures for lynx recovery. Many of these conservation measures rely on monitoring of local lynx populations to gauge the effects of National Forest management. The Monitoring Matrix contained in the Management Plan dictates that populations of federally listed threatened and endangered species be monitored on a regular basis.

There are 2 main objectives to this project. One objective is to implement a standardized, repeatable survey in an effort to detect and monitor lynx populations across the Superior National Forest. A second objective is to collect lynx genetic material to augment the existing lynx DNA database and further our knowledge of lynx presence and persistence on the Forest and in Minnesota.


Designated areas are surveyed using snowmobile, vehicle and/or ATV to determine the presence of lynx tracks in snow. These techniques are outlined in a standardized, repeatable survey protocol (working version attached). When tracks are located, surveyors back- and forward-track in an effort to secure genetic material (typically scat and/or hair). These samples are then sent to the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station Genetics Lab for DNA analysis. The results are then entered in to a state-wide lynx genetic database that is being maintained by the Superior National Forest. This database is continually updated as new information becomes available. A map showing the locations of genetically confirmed lynx within the state is created (in prep, draft map attached). This map will be updated annually with current year's results.


Objective 1 - During the winter of 2009-2010 snow tracking surveys were conducted on 197 miles of roads and trails along 6 Primary Survey Routes (see protocol) within 6 Lynx Analysis Units. These 6 LAUs encompass 293,527 acres. Three mid-level project areas were surveyed along Secondary Survey Routes. These project areas were a combined 340,788 acres in size. Another 235 miles were surveyed opportunistically. This roughly translates to 2,890 acres surveyed.

Objective 2 - Fifty-two DNA samples were collected with 1 other agency and 1 private researcher contributing (not all samples were collected as part of snow tracking surveys). All samples contained enough quality mitochondrial DNA to determine species with 48 samples coming back as lynx (canid and "other"species were also detected). Of these 48, enough quality nuclear DNA was present to determine gender and individual identification on 41 samples. Twelve unique individuals were identified, 4 males and 8 females. One individual has been known since 2006, 3 since 2009, and 8 are new individuals to our database this year.

In addition to these 2 objectives, we enhanced approximatley 6,720 acres of lynx habitat. This was accomplished by effectively decommissioning approximately 21 miles of road in lynx habitat. This was done primarily with monies available through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) and other resource dollars.

Canada lynx have been confirmed to persist on the Superior National Forest and across northern Minnesota using these methods and techniques starting in 2002. Thousands of miles of roads and trails have been surveyed. Over the years more than 526 genetic samples have been collected and analyzed identifying more than 109 individuals in 10 counties. These efforts were instrumental in the development of techniques to genetically detect lynx-bobcat hybrids and were in part responsible for the first ever documentation of these hybrids. Results from these early efforts also spawned a research study which greatly increased our knowledge of lynx ecology in the Great Lakes ecosystem and also first confirmed lynx reproduction within the State.


Tim Catton, Biological Science Technician, Kawishiwi Ranger District, Superior National Forest, Ely, MN. (218) 365-7637.


Volunteer , Collection Agreement , Participating


Minnesota Department of Natural Resources , Natural Resources Research Institute , USDA Rocky Mountain Research Station , USDI Fish and Wildlife Service , Voyageurs National Park , Steve Loch


Canada lynx at remote camera station


Figure 1: Canada lynx at remote camera station

Examining lynx tracks


Figure 2: Examining lynx tracks


Draft map of lynx DNA sample locations (2010 LYCA DNA Map DRAFT.pdf)
Draft map of lynx DNA sample locations (2010 LYCA DNA Map DRAFT.pdf)


SNF snow tracking protocol (working) (SNF Lynx Monitoring Surveys_working 2 2010.pdf)
SNF snow tracking protocol (working) (SNF Lynx Monitoring Surveys_working 2 2010.pdf)