Critical Habitat Needs for Threatened Species

There are several species of endangered or threatened animals in Maine.  Two of the most well known are the Federally Threatened Canada lynx, found in the northern forests and the New England Cottontail which is being considered for listing and is found in the southernmost part of the state.

Lynx are the largest wild cat that is known to have a breeding population in Maine.  Lynx appear larger than their cousin the Bobcat because of their long legs, long ear tufts and large feet.  What makes them most unique is their specialized diet and habitat needs.  Lynx are found in the Boreal forest that is mostly covered in dense Spruce and Balsam Fir and have continuous snow coverage on the ground throughout the winter months.

The northern part of Maine is the southernmost range where lynx can find suitable habitat.  Their diet mainly consists of Snowshoe Hare and is supplemented by upland ground birds and small mammals.  Adult lynx prey on one or two snowshoe hare each day making them highly sensitive to snowshoe hare population fluctuations which happen approximately every 10 years.  When snowshoe hares decline, lynx must use a greater amount of territory to meet their own survival needs.

Critical habitat is ensured under the Maine Forest Protection Act which allows for some areas to be clearcut to create habitat through regenerative or succession forest growth, in this case Spruce and Balsam Fir trees.  The climate in Maine is perfect for trees to grow and by using Forestry Management Practices to cut older, more mature trees, young trees are given the opportunity to grow into dense stands of dark growth which provide the habitat necessary for Snowshoe Hare.  These areas of regenerative clearcuts provide for a variety of wildlife including moose.  Lynx and Snowshoe Hare are like many species of wildlife that depend on secession growth of the forest to meet their needs.


Another mammal that depends on critical habitat is the New England Cottontail.  New England Cottontails are unique because they are native to this region.  This is a species that if it loses its habitat could in time face extinction because it does not live in other areas outside New England.

Like the Snowshoe Hare that the Lynx depends on, NE Cottontail cannot survive in mature forests but need regenerative areas with a variety of shrubs and herbaceous plants and grasses.  Both species of Rabbits depend on dense cover for protection from predators that mature forests do not provide.

In the last 50 years Southern Maine land use has changed with abandoned fields growing into mature stands of forestland or developed into commercial buildings and housing projects.  There are ongoing projects to create critical habitat through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  More information can be found by clicking here   and