Resembling an overgrown house cat with black-tipped ears and a stubby tail, the Canada lynx, a native of North America, teeters on the brink of extinction in the U.S. The few lynx that now roam parts of Washington and the mountainous Northwest survive largely because of a network of protected landscapes that crosses the U.S.-Canada border.
Washington State University environmental researchers believe this transboundary landscape provides not only essential habitat for the wild cats but likely also vital connections with larger lynx populations in Canada.
Wildlife cameras set by WSU researchers recently photographed lynx in the Kettle Mountains of far northeast Washington, close to the Canadian border, and more big cats have been spotted in Glacier National Park near the Montana-Canada line.
Lynx, like their forest-dwelling neighbor the grizzly bear, require many miles of connected, undeveloped terrain to survive. According to new research led by Daniel Thornton, assistant professor in WSU’s School of the Environment, such terrain occurs most frequently throughout the Americas near international borders.
This clustering of protected habitats, including national parks and conservation areas, makes many iconic, wide-ranging animals—lynx, grizzlies, jaguars, tapirs and scarlet macaws among them—physically dependent on good relations between neighboring countries and wildlife-friendly borders.