All four species of lynx have been photographed for the National Geographic Photo Ark project, where they are ambassadors for an extraordinary medium-size wild cat found across much of the Northern Hemisphere. These medium-size wild cats share more than a preference for rabbit, their primary prey. All are challenged by habitat-loss caused by human development and climate change. National Geographic Photo Ark is an ambitious project committed to documenting every species in captivity—inspiring people not just to care, but also to help protect these animals for future generations.
Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis)
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) page lists this species as being one of Least Concern because over most of its range it is widespread and abundant. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), however, lists the species as Threatened in the United States.
The species ranges across the two countries, typically within boreal forests that have cold, snowy winters, where it is adapted to hunting its chief prey, the snowshoe hare. “Without high densities of snowshoe hares, lynx are unable to sustain populations despite utilizing a multitude of other prey when snowshoe hare numbers are low,” according to an FWS description of the life history of this species . Other prey species include red squirrel, grouse, flying squirrel, ground squirrel , porcupine, beaver, mice, voles, shrews and fish. The abundance of prey will ddtermine the size of each animal’s range, which can be as much as 80 square miles.
The Canada lynx has been harvested for its fur for more than two centuries, and while this still goes on today legally in the northern part of its range, it is tightly managed.
Bobcat (Lynx rufus)
Also listed by the IUCN Red List as a species of Least Concern, the bobcat may number as many as a million animals in the wild, according to Defenders of Wildlife. Their current range consists of most of the United States, southern Canada, and Mexico. Local threats may present challenges for long term persistence in some regions including market hunting for the fur trade, direct habitat loss caused by increased urbanization, and indirect effects of urbanization such as genetic isolation and lethal/sublethal exposure to anticoagulant rodenticides, according to IUCN.
Like Lynx canadensis, the bobcat preys primarily on rabbits, although it also will take the opportunities presented by squirrels and other small animals.
Read more about the bobcat (and view the National Geographic Photo Ark image of a bobcat) at Things You Didn’t Know About Bobcats (National Geographic Voices, January 31, 2017)
Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx)
Also a species of Least Concern, according to an assessment by IUCN, the Eurasian lynx has substantial stable populations in the north of Europe and in large parts of its range in Asia. Efforts have been made to reintroduce it to areas from which it was extirpated, including in Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany and France.
The Eurasian species is the largest lynx, according to IUCN, and the only one to primarily take ungulate prey. “Lynx kill ungulates ranging in size from the 15 kg musk deer to 220 kg adult male red deer, but show a preference for the smaller ungulate species, such as Roe Deer, Chamois, Reindeer and Musk Deer. Occasionally, Lynx also hunt foxes, hares, marmots, wild pigs, beavers, birds or domestic animals such as sheep and goats, or, in Scandinavia, semi-domestic reindeer,” IUCN says on its Red List page for the species.
Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus)
This is the only of the four species of lynx that is Endangered, according to IUCN. Although that is an improvement from a previous listing of Critically Endangered, fewer than 200 mature adults survive in the two remaining wild subpopulations of southwestern Spain. “Detailed demographic projections suggest that future range expansion and population increase depend upon continued reintroductions,” IUCN states on its profile page for the species. “In the absence of reintroductions, a marked decline would quickly re-occur and extinction is predicted to occur within 35 years,” IUCN adds. This leads some conservationists to regard the Iberian lynx as the most endangered of the world’s 38 species of wild cats.
As with the other three species of lynx, the Iberian lynx preys largely on rabbits. The decline of it prey base, habitat loss, illegal trapping and hunting, and urban development such as roads have all taken their toll on the species.
More from National Geographic Voices about the Iberian Lynx:
- Iberian Lynx in Crisis: Virus Outbreak Threatens the World’s Most Endangered Cat (June, 2014)
- Spain finds room for world’s most endangered cat (September 2009)
The National Geographic Photo Ark is a multi-year project to photograph all species in captivity. The four species of lynx are among them. To learn more about the Photo Ark, visit natgeophotoark.org,