Canada lynx hunting success rate varies considerably between 9 and 54 percent. Snowshoe hares often account for 60-97% of the Canada lynx’s diet. The survivability of the Canada lynx is linked to the snowshoe hare as it dominates its livelihood. The population cycle of the snowshoe hare therefore affects the Canada lynx’s hunting success rate.
The snowshoe hare goes through high and low cycles of population numbers with 10-year intervals. The density of their population peaks at around 100-400 hares per square kilometre. A recorded maximum was 2000-4000 km². Low densities are at 3-30 hares per square kilometre. This affects the population density of the Canada lynx although there is a lag while they follow snowshoe hare population numbers.
Judging by tracking observations Canada lynx kill an average of one hare per day to one every two days but hunting success rates are very variable. For example:
- In the Yukon at a time when the number of snowshoe hares was increasing an individual Canada lynx killed six hares in 11 attempts (54.5% success rate);
- In the Yukon when hare numbers were low the success rate varied from 20-22%;
- In Newfoundland when snowshoe hare numbers were at a high the success rate was 42%;
- Several studies have put the Canada lynx hunting success rate for hares between 9-36%.
Ther are other factors affecting hunting success which include:
- Differences in the abilities of individuals regarding hunting skills;
- Differences in the age and experience of individuals;
- Group size;
- Familiarity or unfamiliarity with the area;
- Variations in the environmental conditions;
- The distance between the prey animal and the predator when they make their dash to attack;
- The relative speeds of the individual snowshoe hare and the individual Canada lynx at the time of the attack.
Clearly a Canada lynx wants to get as close as possible to its prey to improve its hunting success rate and that depends on available cover, the alertness of the snowshoe hare, the skill of the cat and environmental conditions and other factors.
The jumping rate and the distance per jump of the Canada lynx impacts its success rate as it affects its speed. Studies indicate that Canada lynx leap 1.5-2.5 m per jump. The fewer jumps they make in their attacking dash the more successful they are in capturing their prey.
However, Canada lynx on Cape Breton Island made more jumps for each successful capture of prey (11.1 jumps) that unsuccessful dashes (8.4 jumps). They covered 24 m in the chases which ended in success compared to 16.3 m in unsuccessful chases.
When Canada lynx work in groups they are more successful when hunting. In the Cape Breton Island study, they found that when one Canada lynx was hunting its success rate averaged 14%. When there are two cats working together the success rate was 17%. When three worked together the kill rate was 38% and for a group of four the kill rate was 55%.
In the study in Newfoundland the best success rate was 42% which was based upon group hunting. In Yukon, studies found that the Canada lynx hunted in groups of 1-5.
When there are high success rates due to an abundance of snowshoe hare Canada lynx sometimes hide (cache) uneaten parts of their prey in the snow or under leaves.
My deepest thanks to Mel and Fiona Sunquist the authors of Wild Cats of the World. If you want specific references for this information, please ask in a comment.