How DNA from snow helps scientists track elusive animals

Getting your paws on a Canadian lynx is no easy task. These rare cats inhabit remote forests and steep rocky mountains. In fact, lynx are so scarcely-seen, they’ve been dubbed the “ghost cat”—and little is known about their distribution. This lack of information has hindered efforts to conserve the animal, which is listed as a threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Scientists have now begun using a new technique to track these animals down, by detecting trace amounts of DNA left in the snowy tracks of these and other creatures. In a study to be published in the journal Biological Conservation, scientists from the U. S. Forest Service were able to confirm the presence of a lynx in the Northern Rockies through genetic analysis of snow it had stepped in.