Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologists confirmed a recent sighting of a Canada lynx on the Salmon-Challis National Forest.
The sighting is the first direct evidence of lynx presence on the forest since 1991. IDFG collected hair and scat samples from the animal to determine its origin.
"This would be an extremely rare event, and we're waiting to get genetic test results before we confirm it's a native, wild lynx," Fish and Game wildlife manager Tom Keegan said.
A local recreationist reported the animal to IDFG after seeing it in a legally set foot-hold trap targeting bobcat. IDFG officials arrived at the scene within the hour and assessed the lynx for injuries and potential treatment. With no injuries indicated, officials released the lynx from the trap.
"We watched it wander off in good shape," conservation office Dane Cook said. "It had all the classic lynx features: long legs, huge furry paws, ear tufts, and the short black-tipped tail."
Preferred lynx habitat is young, regenerating forests that support its primary prey, snowshoe hares.
"This lynx keyed into an area with a healthy population of snowshoe hares," IDFG wildlife biologist Beth Waterbury said.
Canada lynx are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, and they are designated an Idaho "species of greatest conservation need." Fewer than 40 lynx records are known for the Salmon-Challis region, dating from 1896 trapping logs to an observation of lynx tracks reported in 2010. The last verified record of a lynx in east-central Idaho was an incidentally trapped animal from the Pahsimeroi Valley in 1991.