Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 26, Issue 14, pp 3343–3361 | Cite as

Habitat selection by Canada lynx: making do in heavily fragmented landscapes

  • Carmen VanbianchiEmail author
  • William L. Gaines
  • Melanie A. Murphy
  • Jason Pither
  • Karen E. HodgesEmail author
Original Paper


Habitat loss and fragmentation result in landscapes where high quality habitat patches are surrounded by matrix habitats of low and variable quality. For mobile species to persist in such landscapes, individual animals often rely on the high quality habitats but also use matrix habitats for supplemental resources or while moving between higher quality patches. Determining what habitat features animals select when in these matrix areas is important, as retaining desirable features in lower quality habitats may enable species persistence. We examine a population of US federally threatened Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) in northcentral Washington, near the southwestern range limit, where lynx habitat is fragmented by topography, wildfires, and human impacts. We used Global Positioning System radio-collar data from 17 lynx in the North Cascade Mountains during 2007–2013 to explore lynx habitat use. We used Random Forest models to analyze core hunting, resting, and denning habitat, and the habitats lynx select while between patches of core habitat. While selecting core habitat, lynx used spruce (Picea engelmannii)-fir (Abies lasiocarpa), lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), and mixed sub-boreal-Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) forests, and avoided dry forests and forest openings including new burns. When not in core habitat, lynx used a wider range of habitats, including new burns where fire skips and residual trees offered cover. Our results show clearly that Canada lynx tolerate a wider range of habitats where they occupy fragmented landscapes. Consequently, maintaining animals in fragmented landscapes requires that we identify and conserve not only the core habitats a particular species selects, but also the habitat features animals use while in less suitable environments.


Habitat fragmentation Habitat selection Lynx canadensis Predators Random Forest models Wildfire 



Funding was provided by the University of British Columbia and a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council grant (312222) to KEH. Lynx trapping and collaring were funded as a joint project of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Data are archived with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and at the University of British Columbia. The paper was strengthened by feedback from J. Squires. C. Vanbianchi developed the idea, analysed data, and was the primary author. M. Murphy advised on Random Forest models. J. Pither assisted with GIS and R work, advised on Random Forest and sampling methods, and provided editorial feedback. W. Gaines advised on the GIS layers and habitat variables to include. K.E. Hodges developed the idea, advised on all analyses, obtained funding, and helped revise the paper. All authors contributed to the final version of the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biology DepartmentUniversity of British Columbia OkanaganKelownaCanada
  2. 2.Washington Conservation Science InstituteLeavenworthUSA
  3. 3.Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Program in EcologyUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA

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