Canadian Lynx No Longer Considered Vulnerable, Changes to NB Species at Risk Act
The Canadian lynx, which was once nearly extinct in New Brunswick, has been removed from the Endangered Species List to a species of concern under the New Brunswick Species at Risk Act.
The government also recently made changes to the law to better reflect the species of wolves that were once found in the province.
However, Canada lynx have been recovering and expanding in recent years, although biologists are unsure why.
“It used to be quite abundant,” said Graham Forbes, a professor of wildlife ecology at the University of New Brunswick who has spent time researching the species.
Excessive trapping in the 1900s almost wiped out the lynx in New Brunswick.
“There were bounties on them, for example,” said Forbes, who helped make the decision to remove the species from the endangered species list.
He said it’s extremely difficult to get an accurate population estimate, but it’s likely there are still fewer than 1,000 Canadian lynx in New Brunswick.
The cats have been protected by the Species at Risk Act since the 1970s.
But while they can’t be legally hunted in New Brunswick, they do end up in traps and snares meant for coyotes or bobcats. Those carcasses must be turned over to the province, and a lot of the data on the lynx population comes from them, Forbes said.
“So the government has been collecting a data set on lynx for the last 20 years and it shows that the population has been increasing and spreading from where it was before, mainly in the Edmundston area,” Forbes said.
Evidence warranted a change in the cat’s status based on Canada-wide endangered species criteria, according to Forbes.
“The feeling has been that they have improved to the point where they are no longer endangered, but there are still concerns because the population is still pretty low and there are still some threats to it,” Forbes said .
“There are still enough problems with this species that we don’t want to take it off the list entirely and say it’s not threatened.”
The new classification still keeps them from being hunted or attacked by trappers, he said.
The population could outgrow the need to give it protected status, but lynx need deep snow to thrive, Forbes said.
“When the deep snow disappears, bobcats can move in and crowd out the lynx for food, and they’re also quite large physically,” Forbes said. “So that’s a common problem because New Brunswick sits right on the border between bobcats to the south and lynx to the north. We’re sort of right in the middle.”
Wolves from New Brunswick
In the 100 years since wolves roamed New Brunswick, scientists have debated whether they were gray wolves or eastern wolves.
According to Forbes, there are now skulls or pelts that can provide DNA to scientists, and the province has been persuaded to replace the gray wolf with the eastern wolf on its list of locally extinct species.
“We believe the canid that occurred here is something called the eastern wolf, which is the species thought to occur in the species from Ontario, Upper New York, towards the Maritimes. “
Across Canada, the eastern wolf is considered a threatened species and is still found in parts of Ontario and Quebec. But in New Brunswick it is classified as extinct or locally extinct.
Forbes said they were driven away by overhunting and bounty the province imposed on the animals to reduce their numbers.
Instead, eastern coyotes, a wolf-coyote hybrid, now roam New Brunswick, and only one wolf has been recorded in 100 years.
How to classify a species
The changes in the classification for wolves and lynxes were recommended by a committee of biologists and ecologists. They applied a standard used across Canada to determine which animals are endangered, extinct, or critically endangered in New Brunswick.
“We have a set of criteria that we apply independently and objectively. We’re trying to make sure they’re based on data,” said Forbes, a voting member of the New Brunswick Committee on the Status of Species at Risk KOSSAR.
Three provincial officials help, but no one from the government has a say in classifying a species.
“Nobody from the government votes,” said Chris Norfolk, director of the province’s forest planning and administration department and chair of the New Brunswick committee.
Forbes said the committee reviews biological studies, observations and quantitative criteria on populations from researchers, scientists and datasets. They then forward their recommended designation to the Minister for Natural Resources, who may accept it or ask for more information.
What do changes mean in practice?
For New Brunswick wolves, the listing change means nothing in terms of conservation.
“New Brunswick hasn’t had a self-sustaining population of wolves for many, many, many decades, so this was really just one example where the Science Committee saw fit to change the description of the species to reflect some new evidence.” .”
For the Canadian lynx, the change requires the creation of a provincial management plan for the species.
“A management plan will primarily address some of the ongoing threats to the species and how those threats are being managed over time,” Norfolk said.