Well I must admit it was a jaw dropping moment when I looked at the pictures from my Stealthcam this weekend. I have tried various places and found that leaf movement gives me 1000+ pictures with no actual action, but looking up the driveway seems to always be successful, so that is where I pointed the camera last time. I hoped to see deer, porcupine, raccoon and geese, all of which I know use the driveway, and sure enough they were caught on the camera. But I did not expect to see a Lynx! I am so thrilled to have caught this on camera, but I would love to have seen the face!
There are two different Lynx species in Ontario, Canada Lynx and Lynx rufus, which is also known as Red Lynx or Bobcat. Red Lynx is the smaller of the two species. The Red Lynx is distinguished from the Canada Lynx by its small feet, its small ears with little or no tufts that have clearly visible white spots and a bobbed tail (hence the common name) with a white-tipped underside. The coat is shorter and has a more varied pattern than the Canada Lynx. They have a wider range than the Canada Lynx and are more common in Southern Ontario, although they do coexist further north and in southwestern Ontario. It does not exist as far north as the Canada Lynx because it lacks the large, “snowshoe” feet and longer legs, so doesn’t do well in deep snow.
Their coat varies with the seasons and changes depending on the terrain in which it lives. The winter coat tends to be paler and is mostly grey, but in the summer it takes on the red colour with the black and grey markings.
Although the Red Lynx is common throughout southern Canada, the continental United States and all the way down to northern Mexico, it is extremely elusive and very seldom seen by people. It will disappear if there is any hint of people around and it also does most of its hunting at night, dusk and dawn, when there is less activity about.
Red Lynx weigh between 15-30lbs. They live for about 10 years. In captivity the record is 34 years! They breed in late February to early March and have 1-4 kits two months later. The females can produce two litters in one year and raises the young alone. The kits are weaned at two months old, but will start exploring at four weeks old.
Red Lynx are mainly solitary and they have a home range of 10-20 square kilometers, although there is sometimes an overlap between territories. It varies depending on the amount of prey available and the males tend to have larger areas. Males are more tolerant of overlap in territories than females and at least two females can live on the territory of a male. If several males have their territory overlap there is a hierarchy established, with the dominant male having exclusive rights to the most favourable areas. They can travel great distances and might walk anywhere between three to 11 kilometers in a single night. Their habitat of choice is wild, timbered areas of hardwoods mixed with white pine or other conifers, interspersed with old fields and partly open farmland. That describes our area very well. Their Dens are under logs, in hollows, root depressions or in small natural rock caves or recesses. We have many areas like that too.
Red Lynx are not friendly animals and even though there have been thousands of attempts to tame them. Even when trapped they do not become submissive. Audubon described a 10-day-old kitten as a “most spiteful, growling, snappish little wretch”. I guess it is not a good idea to touch them, however cute they might look!
Their favourite prey is rabbits and hares, but they do eat other small mammals; mice, squirrels, porcupines, mink skunks, muskrat, moles, shrews, chipmunks, as well as birds and occasionally even a deer. In winter, it is able to pull down a weakened deer and hang onto the neck until the deer bleeds to death. They have very keen eyesight and hearing to hunt with, which is why we humans don’t often see them. They are able to survive for long periods without eating and then will eat large amounts when prey is abundant. Like other felines, they are a master of the slow, silent approach and then the deadly spring. They are also very patient and are known to lie in wait beside a rabbit trail for hours.
Red Lynx are almost at the top of their food chain. Only humans, dogs and wolves are a threat to them when they are adults. Owls, eagles, coyotes and foxes sometimes catch the kits. Along with their excellent vision and hearing, Red Lynx are excellent climbers and swimmers, although they tend to avoid water if they can. They mainly die from diseases, such as mange, rabies, distemper and leptospirosis. Parasites are also common; fleas, ticks, lice, roundworms, tapeworms and flukes.
I was interested to see that the camera got a picture of a rabbit five days after seeing the Lynx.
I have seen rabbit scat, so I knew they were around, but I have never actually seen one on the property. Knowing it is the favourite food for the Lynx, maybe we will get another visit in the future.
I do wonder if the Lynx might be a factor in the difference in the numbers of goslings we saw at the weekend. The Stealthcam caught five goslings during the week, but we only saw three at the weekend.
The way the parents were keeping the family closely guarded makes me think that they had reason to be attentive parents!