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They are majestic and magnificent.
Ladd, who lives in the western Maine town of Byron, continues to produce some incredible footage of lynx prowling the mountainous country not far from his home.
Jennifer Vashon, the Canada lynx and bear biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, was kind enough to share some insight on the beautiful cats.
Maine, she said, has been at the forefront of lynx research. That’s in spite of the animals here being at the southern edge of their range, where the habitat is less consistent.
Vashon said in 2000, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Canada lynx as a federally threatened species in Maine and 13 other northern states. That was based on what was deemed to be inadequate protection of lynx habitat on federal lands.
“Here in Maine, we began extensive monitoring of Canada lynx that involved a 12-year radio telemetry study in northern Maine (1999-2011), winter snow track surveys across northern, western and eastern Maine, and documenting all credible lynx sightings,” Vashon said.
That work resulted in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimating the state’s lynx population at between 750 and 1,000, which she said likely is a historic high. Further federal investigation from 2015-17 concluded that Maine was home to the largest lynx population in the lower 48 states.
The spruce budworm outbreak that damaged Maine’s softwood forests in the late 1970s and 1980s led to extensive commercial harvesting of dead and dying trees. That benefited lynx because it led to a proliferation of snowshoe hares, the cats’ primary prey.
“This disturbance, both natural and anthropogenic, led to extensive acreage of young dense regenerating spruce fir forest that supports an abundant prey base of snowshoe hare,” Vashon said. “By the late 1990s, Maine’s lynx population began to expand in response to high prey densities and now are found throughout most of northern, western, and eastern Maine.”
Ladd hasn’t had any snowshoe hares to lure lynx into camera range, but he has been able to acquire roadkill, which he has placed in front of his carefully chosen trail camera locations.
“Although lynx are a specialized predator, they also will kill small mammals (squirrels, mice, voles, etc.) and birds, occasionally kill larger prey, and will also forage on carrion,” Vashon said.
She explained that research in northern Maine found lynx mortality is primarily the result of starvation and predation, with fisher noted as the top predator.
That hasn’t stopped the lynx, which have an abundance of prey, from continuing to prosper in the state’s forests.
“Most of our radio collared adult females give birth to kittens with litters ranging from one to five kittens,” Vashon said. “Breeding season begins in late winter and kittens are typically born in mid to late May in Maine. Kittens will remain with their mother through the next breeding season.”
Thanks to Allie Ladd for the videos and to Jen Vashon for her insight on one of Maine’s most elusive and intriguing wild animals!