Canada Lynx in the Great Lakes Region

Lynx-bobcat hybridization

Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) and bobcats (Lynx rufus), although considered distinct species, occasionally will hybridize. Evidence of Lynx-Bobcat hybrids based on genetic analysis was first reported from Minnesota. In Summer 2003 it was reported that a female lynx-bobcat hybrid trapped in Maine during the winter of 2003 had kittens. These stories were published in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the Bangor News in 2003.

Two peer-reviewed publications on Canada Lynx-bobcat (Lynx canadensis X L. rufus) hybrids:

Schwartz, M.K., Pilgrim, K.L., McKelvey K.S., Lindquist, E.L., Claar, J.J, Loch, S., Ruggiero, L. 2004. Hybridization between Canada lynx and bobcats: Genetic results and management implications. Conservation Genetics 5:349-355.

Hybridization between taxonomically similar species is an often-overlooked mechanism limiting the recovery of threatened and endangered species. We present molecular genetic data for the first time demonstrating that Canada lynx and bobcats hybridize in the wild. We verify that two microsatellite loci Lc106 and Lc110 have non-overlapping allele ranges between Canada lynx and bobcats, and that three putative lynx from Minnesota contain DNA from both bobcats and lynx. Additionally, we use a published test for the 16S rRNA region of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) to determine the maternal species; all hybrids had lynx mothers. Fifteen per cent (3/20) of our lsquoputative lynxrsquo samples were hybrids, although these data are not from a representative sampling effort. Hybridization may be an under-appreciated factor limiting the distribution and recovery of lynx. The presence of hybrids is thus a new factor in the population management of both species with potential implications for hunting and trapping of bobcats.

Homyack,J.A., Vashon,J.H., Libby,C., Lindquist,E.L., Loch,S., McAlpine,D.F., Pilgrim,K.L., Schwartz,M.K., 2008. Canada Lynx-bobcat (Lynx canadensis X L. rufus) Hybrids at the Southern Periphery of Lynx range in Maine, Minnesota and New Brunswick. The American Midland Naturalist 159:504-508.

Hybridization between federally threatened Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) and bobcat (L. rufus) was recently documented in the United States, but little is known regarding physical characteristics of hybrids compared to parent species. We report on the morphology and physical characteristics of five of seven Canada lynx-bobcat hybrids detected near the southern extent of the lynx’s geographic range in Maine, Minnesota and New Brunswick. Hybrids displayed a range of physical characteristics, including features common to both lynx and bobcat, or that were intermediate in character. Observation of an adult female hybrid with three kittens, as well as placental scars in the reproductive tract of a second animal, suggest that hybrids may be reproducing successfully. We recommend that careful measurement, recording and photographing of key characteristics as well as genetic analysis of suspected lynx-bobcat hybrids be priorities for natural resource agencies where hybridization between these species may occur.

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