Visitor Counter

hitwebcounter web counter
Visitors Since Blog Created in March 2010

Click Below to:

Add Blog to Favorites

Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

Subscribe via email to get updates

Enter your email address:

Receive New Posting Alerts

(A Maximum of One Alert Per Day)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

One of our Blog reader friends, Dave Messineo, sent me this interesting article on The Atlantic Salmon, at the time of colonization and into the early 19th century, as abundant in their annual eastern USA "runs" as those of the Pacific Salmon of Alaska and the Pacific northwest----Seemingly, without a concerted effort at dam removal, watershed revitalization and removal of western species such as Rainbow Trout, Steelhead Trout and Pacific Salmon, the mighty Atlantic Salmon fishing runs will remain footnotes in our environmental legacy of destruction

From: "Messiineo, Dave
Date: August 30, 2016 at 5:42:34 PM PDT
Subject: History of Atlantic Salmon in New York

    I have been planning to send this article to you for some time, but I never seem to have the time to convert it from my printed article to Word or PDF.

   I see the New York DEC has posted it on line so I am sending you the URL.....

  The Atlantic Salmon of Lake Ontario and other inland lakes of Central and Northern New York was one of the world's greatest salmon fisheries. Fisheries scientists have concluded that the weight and densities of runs of Atlantic Salmon was at least equal to runs of Pacific Salmon in the northwest.

The Atlantic Salmon

  The Atlantic Salmon was completely eliminated in both the US and Canadian waters of Lake Ontario,  because of dams ....apparently anyone could build a dam for private profit. (pollution and overfishing no doubt helped but if they can't spawn they are doomed)

   Although a few Atlantics have been restocked in recent times, the Coho and Chinook now fill the lake and run the rivers, as well as the  Pacific Steelhead trout.

The Pacific Salmon

Steelhead Trout

Rainbow Trout

     These Pacific Salmon were stocked "temporarily" to reduce the alien Alewife which prevented the reintroduction of the Atlantic Salmon and the Lake Trout which had been eliminated also.

   Now the Pacific Salmon are so easy to catch and popular with fishermen that the DEC seems to happy to keep the status quo.

    Pacific Salmon are easy to raise in hatcheries and and tolerate conditions which make them easier than Atlantics.

    Atlantics seem to require better stream conditions and cleaner water. Add to that the fact that the popular Rainbow trout or Steelhead are occupying the same niche in Atlantic Salmon breeding streams.

Dave Messineo


"The narration of the previous abundance of the salmon in Lake Ontario and its tributary streams read like a romance  ... "  So wrote Hugh M. Smith for the U.S. Fish Commission in 1890 (Smith, 1892:195). 

 Consider the following sampling of 17th, 18th and early 19th century writings on the subject. 

The Jesuit Fathers Lemercier and LaMoyne ascended the Oswego River in July 1654.  They met Oneida Indians--

"with their canoes filled with fresh salmon ... one of our men caught twenty large salmon and on the way up the river our people killed thirty other salmon with spears and paddles.   There were some many of them that they were struck without difficulty" (Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, 1899:151).

Another early account is found in the Van der Kemp Papers and pertains to the year 1792--

"Both Salmon Rivers, emptying into Lake Ontario ... and the Fish-creek in Oneyda lake are in the spring and fall [full] of Salmon.  You may form of this assertion, a pretty accurate opinion after I have informed you, that one Oneyda Indian took with his Spear 45 Salmons within an hour; another in the presence of Captain Simonds 65 during one night, and another 80" (Van Der Kemp, 1880:64).

In 1817, one Elisha Clark built a dam across the Genesee River at Rochester.  Thousands of salmon were killed by people using clubs, spears and pitchforks on the salmon that collected below the dam (Follet, 1932:367).  The following also attest the abundance of this species in the early 1800's.--

"In October, 1836, two men took [on the Salmon River at Pulaski] two hundred and thirty Salmon between 8 p.m. and 12, with spears and fire-jacks, and after 12 til morning two other men in the same skiff took two hundred odd, the average weight of the entire lot weigh fourteen and three-quarters pounds. We have had fifteen hundred fresh Salmon in the fish-house at one time.  When a freshet occurred [sic] in June few would always come up, and sometimes a few  early in the spring.  Any time from June till winter when there was a freshet they were sure to come.  The principal time, however was in Fall, during September, October and November.  Twelve skiff in one night have taken an average of three hundred Salmon each" (Goode, 1884:473).

"It was nothing uncommon for teams fording the rivers and creeks at night to kill salmon with their hoofs.  An older settler living in the town of Hannibal told Mr. Ingersoll that one night while driving across Three-Mile Creek the salmon ran against his horses' feet in such large numbers that the horses took fright and plunged through the water, killing one large salmon outright and injuring two others so that they were captured.  The farmers living near the smaller creeks easily supplied their families with salmon caught by means of pitchforks" (Smith 1802:196).

"My father and Uncle Asa ... for a number of years could catch every fall from 15 to 20 barrels of salmon ...They would come up the creek sometimes as early as September and then would be very fat..  The largest that I ever saw caught in Salmon Creek weighed 42 pounds after it was dressed and was sold for &1.00 ..."(Simpson, 1949:176)

"Salmon were so abundant that men stood on a log across Salmon Creek and speared them with pitchforks in the 'fish shoal'. Women often caught a salmon with their hands or in their aprons" (Simpson, 1948:154).

"Forty years ago the salmon fisheries on this [Salmon] River brought more money to the people than all the machinery now on the river" (Written by a Mr. Cross and quoted by Goode, 1884:474).

Similar Eloquent documentation of salmon abundance on the Canadian side of Lake Ontario can be found in contemporary Canadian publications (Parsons, 1973). 


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Following up on yesterdays Post (and others over the past years) regarding living in harmony with ones surroundings by planting native trees, shrubs and flowers, I finally got to the point where my southern California property could become certified by THE NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION as CERTIFIED WILDLIFE HABITAT--------It is now providing the four basic habitat elements needed for wildlife to thrive: FOOD, WATER, COVER AND PLACES TO RAISE YOUNG................I encourage all of you to follow suit and not let nature just be something that we travel to , rather making a conscious effort to become part and parcel with the natural world right outside your front and back door, expanding upon whatever native habitat that exists in your neighborhood..........The critters will thank you!!!!


Going Native in Your Urban Garden

By Colleen Beaty, Conservation Content Writer|May 5, 2016

Bats and Birds Will Eat Your Mosquitoes

natural  zika virus defense?

By Colleen Beaty, Conservation Content Writer|April 14, 2016
Image result for birds eating mosquitoes

Monday, August 29, 2016

How can we as individuals do our part to enhance biodiversity?.........If you own a home with a yard, "studies have shown that even a modest expansion of the native plant cover significantly increases the number and species of breeding birds, including birds of conservation concern"........... "As gardeners and stewards of our land, we have never been so empowered to help save biodiversity from extinction, (with) the need to do so never greater"................ All we need to do is plant native plants indigenous to your part of the Country.........Mimic the natural areas near your home by creating horizontal and vertical "tangles" of trees, shrubs and flowers that provide cover and shelter for life to flourish................Then, provide some type of water source(birdbath, pond, etc)...........And almost overnight, watch your once quiet yard begin to be a magnet for insects, birds, reptiles and mammals..........By creating your native plant garden, you expand the ability of our local, state and National Parks, Reserves and Open Space Easements to sustain life................. "Years of research by evolutionary biologists have shown that the area required to sustain biodiversity is pretty much the same as the area required to generate it in the first place"............. "The consequence of this simple relationship is profound"................ "Since we have taken 95% of the U.S. from nature we can expect to lose 95% of the species that once lived here unless we learn how to share our living, working, and agricultural spaces with biodiversity, that is,95% of all plants and animals!"..............."Studies of habitat islands with known histories, such as Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal and Ashdown Forest in England, have so far shown these predictions to be accurate"........... "Species are lost at the same proportion with which a habitat is reduced in size"............. "The good news is that extinction takes awhile, so if we start sharing our landscapes with other living things, we should be able to save much of the biodiversity that still exists"

Your Garden Has a Function

In the past we didn’t design gardens that play a critical ecological role in the landscape.

 We must do so in the future if we hope to avoid a mass extinction from which we humans are not likely to recover.

 As quickly as possible we need to replace unnecessary lawn with densely planted woodlots that can serve as habitat for our local biodiversity.

 New England Native Plant Garden

California Native Plant Garden

Why We Need Biodiversity
 Few people feel personally threatened by the loss of biodiversity. Here’s why you should. Biodiversity losses are a clear sign that our own life-support systems are failing. The ecosystems that support us - - that determine the carrying capacity of the earth and our local spaces - - are run by biodiversity.
 It is biodiversity that generates oxygen and clean water; that creates topsoil out of rock and buffers extreme weather events like droughts and floods; and that recycles the mountains of garbage we create every day.
 And now, with human induced climate change threatening the planet, it is biodiversity that will suck that carbon out of the air and sequester it in living plants if given half a chance.
 Humans cannot live as the only species on this planet because it is other species that create the ecosystem services essential to us. Every time we force a species to extinction we are encouraging our own demise. Despite the disdain with which we have treated it in the past, biodiversity is not an option, it is an imperative!

Texas Native Plant Garden

Oregon Native Plant Garden

Florida Native Plant Garden

Redesigning Suburbia

For over a century we have favored ornamental landscape plants from China and Europe over those that evolved right here. If all plants were created equal, that would be fine. But every plant species protects its leaves with a species-specific mixture of nasty chemicals. With few exceptions, only insect species that have shared a long evolutionary history with a particular plant lineage have developed the physiological adaptations required to digest the chemicals in their host’s leaves. They have specialized over time to eat only the plants sharing those particular chemicals.

 When we present insects from Pennsylvania with plants that evolved on another continent, chances are those insects will be unable to eat them. We used to think this was good. Kill all insects before they eat our plants! But an insect that cannot eat part of a leaf cannot fulfill its role in the food web.

 We have planted Kousa dogwood, a species from China that supports no insect herbivores, instead of our native flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) that supports 117 species of moths and butterflies alone. In hundreds of thousands of acres we have planted goldenraintree from China instead of one of our beautiful oaks and lost the chance to grow 532 species of caterpillars, all of them nutritious bird food.  Research has shown that alien ornamentals support 29 times less biodiversity than do native ornamentals.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

"Birds have regional accents, making them like us, or us like them"........ "The biggest differences occur when natural barriers of significant size prevent contact between varying populations: think the difference between Irish and English accents, or English and American, or American and Australian"................."Habitat fragmentation(can be another factor) altering bird songs, a fact discovered in the Canadian boreal forest where black-capped chickadee songs were altered in localized populations"............. "A human equivalent might be the difference between the south Boston accent and the Massachusetts accent found just an hour drive outside of the city"........As a result of divergent singing among birds of the same species, it is now recognized that "geographic variation in song may reduce or eliminate the ability of some populations to recognize each other as conspecifics, possibly leading to assortative mating, reproductive isolation, and speciation"

A Song For Someone
Photo posted to Flickr by Seabamirum . Optimized for web.
I was editing a piece the other day on mourning warbler songs, and learned that males who live in different parts of the country sing differently. The variations might sound subtle to you and me, but to a bird they’re probably quite stark. Researcher Jay Pitocchelli, an ornithologist at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, found that males in Newfoundland used 22 different syllables in their songs, while birds on the mainland used 110.  
I guess another way to put this is that the birds have regional accents, making them like us, or us like them. The biggest differences occur when natural barriers of significant size prevent contact between varying populations: think the difference between Irish and English accents, or English and American, or American and Australian.
But, of course, things don’t have to be so dramatic. Pitocchelli notes that factors like land development also play a role in song divergence. A different study done in the boreal forest region in Canada found that habitat fragmentation altered black-capped chickadee songs in localized populations. A human equivalent might be the difference between the south Boston accent and the Massachusetts accent found just an hour drive outside of the city.
Another example might be the Catskill accent versus the downstate accent, which is the subject of a paper by Julian Rauter that recently showed up in my inbox. Rauter grew up in the Catskills and is studying language documentation and revitalization as an undergrad at Harvard. In his experiment he recorded 10-second snippets of sound from 10 “native” speakers (natives being defined as those having spent their first 18 years living in the Catskills) and 10 “migrant” speakers (those who spent their formative years downstate before moving to the Catskills). He then had a different set of people rate the accents. In over 60 percent of the cases, the raters correctly identified the migrants as “definitely not Catskill.” The flip side, of course, is that in 33 percent of the cases, migrants sounded “more Catskill,” an indication, perhaps, that they’d linguistically assimilated.
In this paper on warblers Pitocchelli writes: “Geographic variation in song may reduce or eliminate the ability of some populations to recognize each other as conspecifics, possibly leading to assortative mating, reproductive isolation, and speciation." In Rauter's paper on Catskill regiolects, he credits the 60-plus percent who didn’t assimilate, in part, to the social divide between natives and those from away. “Many downstaters reported experiencing difficulty becoming part of the community once they decided to become full-time residents of the Catskill region,” he wrote. “Very few migrants have a large volume of verbal interaction with natives.”
It’s just sort of interesting to see the parallels.

Dave Mance-Northern Woodlands Magazine

Crickets and Grasshoppers are both "Grasshoppers".......... "One group(of Grasshoppers) is the short-horned grasshoppers, also known as locusts"......... "The “horns” are antennae"......... "In this group, the antennae are shorter than the length of the body, often less than half as long"......... "Short-horns are generally active during the day, so if you see a grasshopper-like insect winging across your yard during daylight hours, it’s most likely a short-horn".............. "The other group is the long-horned grasshoppers, which includes katydids and crickets"........... "All of these have “horns” or antennae that are longer than their bodies".......... "Crickets fold their wings flat down on their backs, while most of the other long-horned grasshoppers, including katydids, fold them tent-like above their backs"............. "Members of the long-horned club move about and make most of their noise at night, so that insect chirping away under the supper table is apt to be a cricket (or other long-horned cousin)"

Sounds of the Season
Illustration by Adelaide Tyrol
I have a confession to make. Up until a week or so ago, I didn’t know how to tell a grasshopper from a cricket. I’d see some sort of large, hopping insect, reach for my field guide, and – what is that thing? – could not come to a conclusion before it hopped away.
Now I know. It ain’t easy. But more important, I had been approaching it all wrong. I was looking for grasshoppers to be in one group, with understandable grasshopper characteristics. And for crickets to be in another, with cricket characteristics. But it doesn’t work that way.
There are indeed two groups, but they are both grasshoppers. One group is the short-horned grasshoppers, also known as locusts. The “horns” are antennae. In this group, the antennae are shorter than the length of the body, often less than half as long. Short-horns are generally active during the day, so if you see a grasshopper-like insect winging across your yard during daylight hours, it’s most likely a short-horn.
The other group is the long-horned grasshoppers, which includes katydids and crickets. All of these have “horns” or antennae that are longer than their bodies. Crickets fold their wings flat down on their backs, while most of the other long-horned grasshoppers, including katydids, fold them tent-like above their backs. Members of the long-horned club move about and make most of their noise at night, so that insect chirping away under the supper table is apt to be a cricket (or other long-horned cousin).
Ross Bell, a professor emeritus at the University of Vermont, became interested in grasshoppers and crickets about 15 years ago. Not much was known about grasshoppers and crickets in Vermont then, and Bell feels that not all that much more is known about them now. “Grasshoppers don’t sting people, so they don’t get much attention,” he says.
But Bell is keeping count. In Vermont, there are 39 species of short-horned grasshoppers, 16 species of crickets, and 17 other species of long-horned grasshoppers.
In New Hampshire are 35 short-horned grasshopper species, 15 crickets, 16 other species of long-horned grasshoppers, plus 5 camel crickets, a mole cricket, a pygmy mole cricket, and 7 species of pygmy grasshoppers.
As for how the species tell themselves apart, it appears that sound is the main way. Bell says some people who collect crickets don’t even collect their bodies, as most insect collectors do. They just record their songs.
“In some cases, you can’t even tell the cricket species apart if you are holding them in your hand,” Bell says, “but you can tell when they call.”
Around my house at this time of year, the Carolina grasshopper is everywhere, erupting in short, noisy flights across the gravel driveway on its white-banded wings. This is a short-horned grasshopper, most active by day. It’s found in both Vermont and New Hampshire. Bell notes that it is the most common grasshopper in the Connecticut River valley. It can be quite colorful, he says; its wings are black with yellow borders, and a related species has wings that are sometimes yellow or pink.
Long-horned grasshoppers and crickets “sing” by rubbing a “scraper” on one wing against a “file” on the other wing. Some short-horned grasshoppers sing by rubbing a leg against a wing.
The “songs” of other short-horned grasshoppers are mechanical sounding – buzzes, whirrs, and clicks. The song of the house cricket goes cheep-cheep-cheep (pause) cheep-cheep-cheep (pause). The songs of other crickets, katydids, and the other long-horned grasshoppers can be complex, with chirps and buzzes and pauses. If you can hum along, then it’s a cricket, advises one field guide. I’m not convinced that’s entirely true, but it’s a place to start.
Grasshoppers and crickets sing for pretty much the same reason birds do. The males sing to attract females and to stake out their territory. In some species, the females respond to the males with a song of their own.
Bell says it is not a myth: the temperature cricket, a kind of tree cricket, will tell you the temperature in Fahrenheit if you count the number of chirps it makes in 15 seconds and then add 37. However, he adds, all grasshoppers and crickets sing faster when it is warmer and slower when it’s colder. It’s a function of their cold-blooded metabolism. When the weather is hotter, they do everything faster.
Personally, I’ll use a thermometer when I need to know the temperature. But I’m keeping an ear out for the scritches, scratches, chirps, and hums of late summer and early fall. Now that I know that grasshoppers and crickets are easier to tell apart by sound than sight, I’ll be listening more closely.
Madeline Bodin is a freelance writer who lives in Andover, Vermont.

Green Herons love swamps, especially during droughts..............See the series of pictures below from this Vermont wetland

Green Day
In a world where the natural environment is usually categorized as land or water, a swamp manages to be both. Deer and ducks, mink and mollusks, dogwoods and cattails all coexist in a rich tapestry of life.

We set this camera up on a stripe of water in one such wetland which, on account of the dry summer, wasn’t very wet at all. Because of the drought, the animal life in the area was funneled toward the water in the main channel. Over the span of three days we got pictures of muskrats and both painted and snapping turtles, but our favorite series of photos was of this immature green heron.
These small herons are relatively common birds, but we don’t often see them, at least not as commonly as we see their big, blue cousins. Green herons haunt wetland edges, waiting patiently for prey to wander by. According to our resident bird expert Bryan Pfeiffer, they sometimes lure in fish using small items such as twigs or insects as bait, then snatch them with their dagger-like bills.
The motion-sensing camera was set on a 10-second delay and it only took 29 images over the span of 53 minutes – affirmation that herons spend a lot of time standing very, very still. We did get a cool action sequence of the heron taking a quick bath, though. And a minnow meeting his unfortunate end. Here are the choice pics. 

Dave Mance
August 18, 2916 Northern Woodlands

Photo Gallery

  •  Photo: Northern Woodlands
  •  Photo: Northern Woodlands
  •  Photo: Northern Woodlands
  •  Photo: Northern Woodlands
  •  Photo: Northern Woodlands
  •  Photo: Northern Woodlands
  •  Photo: Northern Woodlands
  •  Photo: Northern Woodlands
  •  Photo: Northern Woodlands
  •  Photo: Northern Woodlands
  •  Photo: Northern Woodlands
  •  Photo: Northern Woodlands
  •  Photo: Northern Woodlands
  •  Photo: Northern Woodlands
  •  Photo: Northern Woodlands

Saturday, August 27, 2016

"First videotaped in November 2011, in Arizona’s Whetstone Mountains, El Jefe is among six wild U.S. jaguars documented during the past two decades, all males"............... "If he’s looking for love, in other words, he’ll need to cross the border(back into Mexico)"..............: "There have been no female jaguars recorded in El Norte since a hunter killed the last one in 1963".............. "Panthera onca won U.S. endangered species protection in 1997, but its fate is inextricably tied to Mexico".............. "About 4,000 jaguars are believed to remain in that country, mainly in its southernmost states, where conservation work by Mexican authorities and nonprofit groups is concentrated"............ "The northernmost population has gotten scant official attention, beyond a few incentives for private landowners, so non-governmental organizations are stepping in on both sides of the border"................. “In some ways,” says Jessica Moreno, a biologist with Sky Island Alliance, a Tucson environmental group, “people working for NGOs have an easier time working on behalf of jaguars because they can move forward with less politics, red tape and bureaucracy than government agencies"................However, getting some female Jaguars into the USA may take some time.............."Like female Pumas, female Jaguars stay relatively close to their mothers from one generation to the next, resulting in a painfully slow expansion of territory".............. "(Researchers speculate that) the fastest females may return to the islands (such as the Santa Rita Range) (is in)45 to 70 years, conservatively 60 to 85, and (pessimistically) from 100 to 250 years"......... "(There are) several ranches between the Northern Jaguar Reserve and the (U.S.) border that have volunteered to serve as research sites and protected areas (for prospecting Jaguars)"................. "Working with the U.S.-based Sky Island Alliance and Wildlands Network, along with Sonoran educators and Mexico’s Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturals Protegidas (a federal park service), (there is hope that) jaguars of both sexes (will) move into the U.S (inside of the next 45 years)"

The tenuous fate of the Southwest’s last jaguars

U.S. conservation of the endangered big cats depends on their populations in Mexico.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Nature keeps one constantly guessing.........Average year-long temperature across the northern tier of the USA is getting warmer and warmer, but somehow we still see Moose making a living in New York State and Massachusetts(despite brain disease and winter tic debilitation),,,,,,,,,,,,,,The Canadian Lynx, another cold weather denizen and one linked so closely to cold snowy winters and its primary prey, the snowshoe hare is still making its way south from Canada into Maine with new evidence of breeding Lynx in New Hampshire and Vermont................A mixed matrix of mature woodland to den in and 10 to 30 year old regenerating forest where snowshoe hares are at their most dense population is the winning "habitat combo" for this "wide pawed" feline ............Deep and long lasting Winter snow cover is another essential natural world event that give Lynx an edge over its often sympatric cousin, the Bobcat.........The Lynx with its "snowshoe-like foot padding has the advantage in snowy terrain, virtually gliding over the snow surface whereas the the smaller soled bobcat has the advantage on snow-less field and forest terrain ..............Recent research has revealed that not only is the Maine Lynx population sending prospecting cats into Vermont and New Hampshire, apparently the Maine gene pool is being positively injected with Lynx swimming south across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec, Canada..............With last years New England Winter virtually non-existent in terms of snow cover, will the Lynx be able to adapt or will their New England emergence be a minor blip on our natural world scene?

Shadow Cat: Canada Lynx

 Silently Cross U.S. State,

 National Borders

The forest has eyes. And somewhere in the
 shadows of a winter dusk that falls across towns in northern
 New England, they’re watching.

On-the-move: Canada lynx are making their way into 
new territory. (Photograph: USFWS/Keith Williams)
The deep green eyes of the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) have the advantage in the region’s dark spruce-fir, or boreal, forest. They see without being seen. The better to go walkabout in new territories, say researchers who have tracked lynx in U.S. states such as Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
Cats-of-the-snow on the prowl
Lynx habitat – the boreal forest – extends across Canada and reaches down into the northernmost U.S. There lynx have it all: their main food source, snowshoe hares; the brushy woods the hares prefer; and the deep winter snows to which lynx and hares have adapted. Both species have thick cushions of hair on the soles of their large, snowshoe-like feet.
Lynx populations are in sync with those of their hare prey, according to ecologist Jeff Bowman of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Snowshoe hare numbers peak about every 10 years, says Bowman, with lynx numbers reaching highs a year later.
South of the U.S.-Canada border, the spruce-fir forest begins to peter out, and with it, numbers of snowshoe hares and, usually, lynx. But lynx numbers in Maine are now at a relative high, according to biologist Jennifer Vashon of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “Our last estimate, in 2006, was 750 to 1,000 adults,” she says. “We think the population has grown since then, and that lynx have expanded their range.” State biologists are conducting a new survey; they plan to have an updated count by 2018.
Maine’s lynx may be doing well enough that they’re fostering new populations in New Hampshire and Vermont – states where the snow cats haven’t been seen for decades.
Several lynx, including kittens, have been glimpsed along the edges of snowy roads in remote parts of Vermont and New Hampshire. Just as we do, lynx use thoroughfares for travel, especially in winter. People in cars – and on skis, snowshoes and snowmobiles – might find that they’re sharing highways and trails with these shadow cats.

Shadow cat of the northern forest: A lynx silently pads through deep snow on large feet that act as snowshoes. (Photograph: USFWS)

Thinking like a lynx
The hunting success of an individual lynx – and the stability of a lynx population – depend not on old-growth forest, as had long been thought, but on early successional forest: woods with trees between 10 and 30 years old. Snowshoe hares hide there in young thickets or “edge rows,” the wilderness equivalent of the hedgerows where suburban rabbits hop.
Sections of forest that have been periodically harvested for timber are scattered across northern New England. Many have young trees springing up amid a hare, and therefore lynx, favorite: jumbles of downed branches atop scrubby undergrowth.
Logging can be a plus for lynx, wildlife ecologists say. It may be the equivalent of lightning-strike fires that once burned in the North Woods; such fires, researchers report, are now largely suppressed.
More than logging or fires, a tiny, native insect – the eastern spruce budworm – has radically altered forests in states like Maine. Spruce budworm killing sprees happen every 30 to 60 years. The last onslaught was in the 1970s-1980s. Millions of acres of spruce-fir forest were infected, the conifers’ needles consumed by budworm larvae until the trees died, then fell or were cut down.
But what’s bad for balsam fir and black spruce is good for lynx. As dense, old-growth coniferous forests lose trees and “revert” to early successional states with young trees and low undergrowth, snowshoe hares move in. Hot on their heels are lynx.

If luck is with them, people on snowmobiles,
 snowshoes or skis sometimes cross the trail of a lynx. (Photograph: USFWS)

Ambassadors of the northern forest
States where Canada lynx exist (Maine; Montana; Washington; Wyoming; and Colorado, where lynx have been reintroduced) likely have small populations. Now – thanks perhaps to spruce budworm-driven forest changes in Maine – New Hampshire and Vermont can be added to the list.
The number of lynx in northwestern New England is under debate. What isn’t a question, say biologists Chris Bernier of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department and Jillian Kilborn of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, is that the cats have returned.
Where are they coming from?
Lynx are likely crossing state lines from Maine into New Hampshire then Vermont. They might also be emigrating from areas south of the St. Lawrence, such as southern Quebec, says Bowman. He recently published results of a study of peripheral populations of Canada lynx in the Canadian Journal of Zoology. The research uncovered surprising evidence of lynx crossing the St. Lawrence River, “so some lynx could migrate to New England from north of the St. Lawrence,” Bowman says.
Adds Luke Hunter, author of the book Wild Cats of the World and president of Panthera, a wild cat conservation organization headquartered in New York, “lynx are capable of extremely long dispersal movements, particularly during hare declines.”
Whatever path these ambassadors of the northern forest took to New Hampshire and Vermont, they’ve arrived.
“For the past 30 years, lynx sightings and tracks have been intermittently documented in New Hampshire,” says Kilborn, “with little consistency until 2010 and 2011, when they became common in northern Pittsburg near the Canadian border.” During the fall of 2011, hunters spotted lynx kittens on a Pittsburg logging road, Kilborn says, “prompting us to make a concerted effort to document the distribution and abundance of lynx in the state.”
Lynx were regularly recorded during the first two years of the survey (2011 and 2012) in the towns of Pittsburg, Cambridge and Success. Then in April, 2013, lynx tracks were discovered on Kinsman Mountain in the White Mountains, the first confirmed high-elevation record in New Hampshire since the 1970s. Lynx were again observed  in northern Pittsburg in the winter of 2013-14. In the winter of 2014-15, says Kilborn, “we detected a further expansion of lynx range beyond Pittsburg.”
This winter (2015-16), the scientists have come across several lynx tracks, including in the White Mountains near Zealand Mountain. “Our research confirms that there is cross-border movement by lynx along the Maine-New Hampshire line,” says Kilborn.
Adds Alexej Siren, a biologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who’s collaborating with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, “We continue to document tracks, with more lynx detected south of Pittsburg than in recent years. Our most recent sighting [on January 31st] was on state lands along a trail near prime snowshoe hare habitat. That could explain why a lynx was there.”

Biologists have confirmed the birth of lynx kittens in 
Vermont. (Photograph: USFWS)

The lynx next door
Next door in Vermont, the state has had at least 10 documented “citizen sightings” of lynx since 2010, according to Bernier. “Five of these were of tracks. One was of three lynx together – a presumed family group – while another appeared to be two adults together. The other sightings were all of single individuals.”
In March, 2010, a snowmobiler snapped a photo of two adult lynx, probably a breeding pair, on a trail in the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Vermont. Almost every winter since, lynx have been present there. In 2013, for example, refuge scientists obtained a trail camera photo of one lynx, and detected tracks of an adult female with four kittens, says refuge biologist Rachel Cliche. That same year, says Bernier, “we confirmed the birth of at least four lynx in Vermont.”
This winter, the researchers are still on the lookout for signs of lynx.

Lynx on parade: Four lynx traverse a snow-covered
 field at the edge of a woodland in Canada. 
(Photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Shirley Nykiforuk)

Shadows in the North Woods
In January, 2013, Harry McCarthy of Woodland, Maine, had his own four-lynx sighting. McCarthy was host to a group of lynx parading up his driveway. He grabbed his camcorder and was able to get a few pictures through his living room window. McCarthy posted the photos on his Facebook page. Friends saw them, and soon the snapshots went viral.
Biologists believe the lynx were likely an adult female and her three eight- to nine-month-old kittens.
The North Woods indeed has eyes.
Lynx tracks in New Hampshire's White Mountains.
Lynx were here: A lynx leaves a sign of its presence along a snowy hiking trail in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. (Photograph: Dylan Summers)