Lynx in Texas? Pt. 1

(In 2012, my friend Terri Werner and I published an article in Texas Fish & Game that had the most reader feedback of any story in the magazine in at least five years. The next two postings will be that article along with some photos. Hope you enjoy!)

Chester Moore, Jr.

It happened at several secret locations deep in the forests of East Texas.

In the early 1980s, officials with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) released Canada lynx into the Pineywoods region. I first heard of these stockings taking place in the Livingston area but later heard they also occurred near Toledo Bend reservoir and in the Big Thicket National Preserve.

Occasionally people would see one of these “lynx”, which are allegedly much larger than a Texas bobcat.

These stories were persistent growing up in East Texas but the details seemed to change. Some said it was actually the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that released the cats while others claimed it was the U.S. Forest Service.

The problem is these stories are bogus. Totally bogus.

TPWD or any other agency for that matter has never stocked Canada lynx (Lynx Canadensis) into any destination in Texas and for that matter would have no reason to do so. They have never lived in the region and their very close cousin is doing incredibly well here.

That is where the confusion lies.

Many people often call a bobcat a lynx or a lynx a bobcat. They are very similar in appearance and it can be confusing to tell them apart, especially when you look at the scientific classification.

Both the bobcat and lynx are found in the cat family, Felidae, which is then broken down to the genus Lynx. From there, each species of lynx is named. The Canada lynx is Lynx Canadensis and the bobcat is Lynx rufus. (there are also two other lynx, Eurasian and Iberian)

Therefore, even though they are in the same classification, they are two distinct subspecies (confused yet?).

By appearance, they are similar. They both have “stumpy” tails, about 4-5” long, ruff of fur extending from the ears to the jowl and a black tipped tail. The colors are similar from light gray to brown that is more common and is often spotted or streaked with black. Their size is similar, from 65-100 cm (including the tail) and weights range from 15-35 lbs. From here, we can get more specific.

The bobcat looks more like an overgrown housecat. Most of them do not have the distinguishing extra long tufts of hair on the tips of its ears or the bigger, shaggy feet that help the Canada lynx navigate in the deep snow.

Another characteristic is the tail. While both have short “bobbed” tails, the bobcats is banded with black stripes, and is black at the top of the tip and white at the bottom. The lynx’s tail lacks banding and is completely black at the tip.

The range of the bobcat is from southern Canada to Central Mexico and tolerates the forest, mountains, swamps or desert regions, while the Canada lynx prefers forested areas and mainly lives on the snowshoe hare.

There is a distinct correlation between the number of births of Canada lynx and the amount of prey of the snowshoe hare. The bobcat feeds on a more diverse diet of, rabbits, squirrels, mice and birds and sometimes deer, a trait that has contributed greatly to their success.

We could find no basis for the origins of Canada lynx stockings in Texas as was discovered about the alleged timber rattlesnake releases in the Pineywoods and published first here in TF&G in 2003. While conducting research for our Southern Panther Search, however, we have found numerous traits of bobcat appearance that could make someone think they were seeing a lynx.

Check our next postings for the conclusion of this piece.

baby bob
Lynx rufus-the bobcat.
The Siberian lynx-a captive specimen at Bear Creek Feline Center.
The Siberian lynx-a captive specimen at Bear Creek Feline Center.

 

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