Use of Non-invasive Genetics to Generate Core-Area Population Estimates of a Threatened Predator in the Superior National Forest, USA

Posted on May 2, 2018


CWBM 7 (1): 46–55

Correspondence: Shannon Barber-Meyer, USGS, 1393 Hwy 169, Ely, Minnesota, 55731 USA. 



Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) are found in boreal forests of Canada and Alaska and range southward into the contiguous United States. Much less is understood about lynx in their southern range compared to northern populations. Because lynx are currently listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act but have recently been recommended for delisting, information on their southern populations is important for lynx recovery, conservation, and management. We used non-invasive, genetic data collected during lynx snowtracking surveys from 2012-2017 to generate core-area estimates of abundance, trend and density in selected core areas of the Superior National Forest of Minnesota, USA. Lynx abundance estimates averaged 41.8 (SD=14.7, range=24-67) during 2012-2017 in the smaller core areas and averaged 52.3 (SD=8.3, range=43-59) during 2015-2017 in the larger core areas. We found no evidence for a decrease or increase in abundance during either period. Lynx density estimates were approximately 7-10 times lower than densities of lynx in northern populations at the low of the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) population cycle. To our knowledge, our results are the first attempt to estimate abundance, trend and density of lynx in Minnesota using non-invasive genetic capture-mark-recapture. Estimates such as ours provide useful benchmarks for future comparisons by providing a context with which to assess 1) potential changes in forest management that may affect lynx recovery and conservation, and 2) possible effects of climate change on the depth, density, and duration of annual snow cover and correspondingly, potential effects on snowshoe hares as well.

Key Words: Abundance, Capwire, Density, Genetic, Hair, Lynx, Non-invasive, Population Estimate, Scat, Track, Trend.


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