The agency said Tuesday that logging, trapping, road construction, and development of ski areas have led to dwindled numbers of the brownish-gray forest cat.
Federal officials now can confirm its existence only in Washington, Montana, and Maine, although it possibly still exists Minnesota. The Canada lynx was once found in 16 northern states.
Environmentalists believe there are fewer than 700 of the cats left in the United States, with two-thirds of them in eastern Washington and western Montana.
The Interior Department signaled its intentions to protect the lynx last February after it reached a settlement of a lawsuit brought by Defenders of Wildlife.
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The 2- to 2-1/2-foot cats generally live in snowy, high-altitude areas and can range up to 100 square miles. They are known to travel great distances in search of their preferred meal, the snowshoe hare.
Besides the four states where lynx is now believed to exist, they were once thought to have roamed in New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado.
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