Rare Canada lynx photographed in North Cascades National Park

Rare Canada lynx photographed in North Cascades National Park

Conservation Northwest / Mar 27, 2019 / Lynx, North Cascades

In mid-March, photographer Kelly Mockli had the incredible opportunity to snap a photo of an endangered Canada lynx—an icon of our wildlife conservation efforts.

By keiko betcher, communications and outreach associate

For nearly 30 years, we’ve worked to conserve and restore Canada lynx in Washington. One of Conservation Northwest’s greatest accomplishments was permanently protecting 25,000 acres of vital habitat for lynx.

In 1998, we led the Loomis Forest Fund, an innovative campaign that raised $16.7 million to compensate school trusts for the fair market value of the state’s Loomis Forest, saving it from logging. These public lands on the eastern edge of the North Cascades are now protected for habitat and recreation as the Loomis Natural Resources Conservation Area. Today, many people know us for this precedent-setting campaign and its harmony between the needs of wildlife, trust obligations and local communities.

Despite this accomplishment for lynx conservation, the population of these big cats in Washington has dwindled, and they are considered Endangered by the state. As of early 2017, state and federal biologists estimated that only 20 to 100 lynx remain, mostly in the North Cascades north and east of the Methow Valley, with at least one individual in the Kettle Range.

That’s why our jaws practically dropped to the floor when we saw this stunning photo that had been circling on social media. Taken by Kelly Mockli, this photo captures a Canada lynx strutting on a sheet of ice on Diablo Lake, right off of Highway 20 in North Cascades National Park.

A Canada lynx walking across a frozen section of Diablo Lake in North Cascades National Park in March 2019. Photo: Kelli Mockli

On Saturday, March 16, around 4:00 p.m., Mockli and his brother pulled over near Diablo Lake to take some pictures. A few people were by the lakeshore, trying to make out an animal in the distance. Luckily he brought his telephoto lens.

“It was crouched in a sitting position and looking toward us, maybe 100-150 yards away. I could tell it was a cat right away,” Mockli said when we asked him about the photo. Thinking it was certainly a bobcat, he snapped a few photos through his zoom lens, but noticed some finer details. “I could faintly see the ear tufts and a long beard, and it just looked a bit off from a bobcat.”

After the animal got up and started walking in the other direction, Mockli snapped this photo, clearly showing its long legs and ear tufts, and was convinced it was a Canada lynx.

Lynx Conservation

A Canada lynx documented in the Rossland mountain range in British Columbia. Photo: CWMP

In 2017, a study underscored the importance of the Loomis State Forest as core habitat for lynx. But our conservation efforts for this iconic feline didn’t end in the late 90’s. Following a petition initially brought forward by Conservation Northwest, Canada lynx in the Lower 48 were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2000.

Through our Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project, we document Canada lynx by setting up trail cameras around Sherman Pass in the Kettle River Mountain Range of northeast Washington, and in the Rossland Range of southern British Columbia. We share this data with partners working on important research around the presence of transboundary lynx.

Other recent work includes collaborating with First Nations in British Columbia to reduce lynx mortality, and restoring lynx habitat by decommissioning nearly three miles of unauthorized, user-built trails near the Loomis Forest.

As the climate warms and snowpacks shrink, the deep snows and “mosaic” boreal forests Canada lynx depend on for survival are increasingly at risk. By continuing to protect, connect and restore core lynx habitat, I hope that rare moments to see and photograph wild lynx, or simply know they’re out there, will continue to be one of the treasures the North Cascades has to offer.

A close up of a North Cascades lynx in Okanogan County. Photo: Scott Fisher, WA DNR