Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lynx tracks one of Ontario's rarest sights

lynx track
close-up of lynx track

There was a rare sight in our front yard yesterday morning.
As I was snowblowing the driveway I discovered the tracks of a lynx.
This cat is one of the rarest animals in Ontario.
Although not endangered, lynxes are just naturally scarce.
Each animal takes a gigantic territory. If I remember my biology lessons from university, in good habitat, each lynx requires 25 square miles. In poorer conditions it might take four times that amount.
Nolalu certainly is good habitat, at least at the moment. Lynxes eat almost nothing but snowshoe hares and this "rabbit" population is currently at the peak of its 11-year cycle. You cannot walk anywhere without seeing the giant footprints of this creature which is also known as the varying hare. However, you could easily go all winter and never see a single bunny. The reason is the snowshoe hare turns white in the winter and this camouflage is just about perfect.
Although lynxes do not turn white (they are sort of a spotted gray), these cats and snowshoe hares have an identical adaptation that makes them perfectly suited for winter.
They both have large fluffy feet that keep them from sinking deeply into the snow.
In the photos this lynx sunk about six inches into a fresh powder of nearly 12 inches. In a week or so the snow will have settled and hardened and the lynx will be able to pad along silently right across the top.
I saw a lynx, probably this very one, a month or so ago when it crossed a road. At first I thought I might finally get to see the "cougar" that so many people here have seen. The animal was certainly the right color and just like everyone else, the first thing I noticed was that it didn't move like a canine or a deer. And then I thought I saw the most distinctive characteristic of a cougar -- a three-foot-long tail -- as the animal slipped into the ditch. When I drove alongside the spot where it had disappeared I was pleasantly surprised to see the animal sitting in the ditch. It was a large lynx, a cat with just a bobtail. I realized that what I had mistaken for a long tail from a distance was actually its long leg stretched behind it. I wonder now how many other "cougar" observers have made this same mistake.
I would dearly love to capture this lynx on my trail camera but that would take almost a miracle. Lynxes don't follow trails and the chances of one just walking through the bush to standing in front of my single camera are about the same as winning a lottery.
Incidentally, lynxes are not dangerous to people. Unfortunately, their cat curiousity sometimes leads to their being shot when they "walk right up" to hunters.
I had a lynx follow me for quite a distance one time at camp. I had walked to another lake where I had lifted a minnow trap and was on the way back to the boat when I saw the lynx sitting on the trail about 30 feet away. It then followed me all the way to my boat and was sitting on the shoreline watching me as I drove away.

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Anonymous said...

Dan, Very lucky!!!!! The majority of people on earth will never see a lynx other than in pictures or TV NATURE SHOWS.
Dave M.

Dan B. said...

Hi Dave. You are so right. I've gone as many as 10 years between lynx sightings but wait until you hear this next story.
Last week Brenda and I were driving on Hwy 11 between Longlac and Hearst and saw a group of four lynx crossing the road.
I just sat there awestruck and never once thought about the camera in my shirt pocket!

bill said...

7 AM this morning. I just saw a lynx cross a branch of the Oswegatchie River, about 3 miles south of Gouverneur, NY. It was walking upriver across from my cabin, and then crossed the river on ice and continued to walk up the river on this side. I got a couple of decent pictures of it through window of my cabin. I will post them if there is a way.
Bill Craig

Dan B. said...

Bill, if you want you can e-mail them to me and I will put them on this blog.
My e-mail address is: