Category: Status Reports
Published: October 2016
Author(s): Jeffrey C. Lewis
The lynx is one of three wild felids that are native to Washington State and it historically occurred throughout the boreal forests within the Cascade Range and northeastern Washington. To protect the species, lynx trapping in Washington was prohibited in 1991, and lynx were federally (2000) and state (2001) listed as a threatened species.
Numerous surveys have been conducted throughout the historical range of the lynx since it was listed as a state and federally threatened species; numerous research projects have also been conducted within western Okanogan County since that time. These survey and research efforts indicated that a single resident population occurs in Washington and is restricted mainly to western Okanogan County in the Northeastern Cascades. While lynx have been occasionally detected within their historical range in Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties, these detections are too few to represent a resident population.
A number of factors likely contributed to the contraction of the lynx range to western Okanogan County. The resident population in wester Okanogan County has been impacted by numerous large wildfires in the past 20 years which removed large areas of suitable habitat for lynx. The loss and fragmentation of habitat as a result of wildfires and the direct and indirect effects of climate change are considered substantial threats to this population. The effects of small population size, the population's position at the margin of the species' range, a possible lack of immigration from British Columbia, and Allee effects are also likely to work in concert with habitat loss and fragmentation to threaten the remaining lynx population in Washington.
Management to protect lynx habitat includes the implementation of the national lynx conservation strategy that is employed on national forest lands within the range of the lynx in Washington and the implementation of a lynx habitat management plan by the Washington Department of Natural Resources on the Loomis State Forest. Threatened status provides protection to lynx by prohibiting the harassment, take or commercial harvest of lynx. The prohibition on the use of body gripping traps in Washington State also provides protection from injury or death in traps set for other species.
Given the 1) range contraction observed in Washington following protection efforts, 2) the substantial loss of habitat in the last 20 years, and 3) the ongoing and anticipated threats to lynx population persistence, we recommend that the status of the lynx in Washington be changed from Threatened to Endangered.
Draft documents are provided for informational purposes only. Drafts may contain factual inaccuracies and may not reflect current WDFW policy.