Lynx

During early spring, there was a moose cow which frequently made her presence known around the cabin. She would wander through the nearby willows, nibbling on the new growth. At times, she excited the guests lower on the trail or made an appearance in the middle of a presentation.

One brisk morning, I was sitting on the porch of the cabin conversing with Stephan, one of the interpretive coaches, as we waited for the arrival of the first tour of the morning. I was leaning against a post on one side of the porch and he was perched on a stump on the other. Conversation went back and forth from historical information on the park to different aspects of my presentation upon which to improve.

Smoke wafted from the tin pipe on the roof, the aroma of burning spruce sweet and inviting. The air was cool, but not cold, the logs burning in the woodstove more for ambiance than necessity.

Interrupting our voices was a loud crash in the brush from the side of the cabin nearest me.

“She’s back,” referring to the moose.

I leaned back slightly to look back along the side of the cabin, fully expecting to see the moose making her way along a nearby game trail. However, I was shocked and bolted quietly to my feet, whispering one word to Stephan.

“Lynx.”

It had caught a grouse and nonchalantly walked about 30 yards into the brush before lying down to eat its breakfast. It happened so fast, neither Stephan nor I got a picture of it, though we had gone around separate sides seeing who could get a better view. Partly hidden by a downed log and willow, a good photograph was out of the question. We could only admire the beautiful creature from a distance.

The favorite prey of the lynx is the horseshoe hair, but during times of low hare populations, other options present themselves. This will include grouse, ptarmigan, ground squirrels, and even in rare cases of lean years, Dall sheep and caribou. In the case of the latter two, it was the result of extreme weather and severe reductions in the populations of their normal prey species. To bring down such a large animal, it would tax them beyond their normal capability and often leave them bruised and exhausted, vulnerable to predation to themselves or to sickness.

Voices down the trail signaled the arrival of the tour and we decided not to draw attention to the lynx, especially since it would deter him from his food. I began my presentation and forced all thought of the lynx from my mind. I did not even notice his departure, which was a feat by itself.

Stephan stood with the driver not too far beyond the crowd in front of the cabin. They said the lynx quietly padded within yards of the rear of the tourists, yet not one of them noticed. The first thought of signaling the group to its presence was thrown out due to the close proximity of the lynx and consideration for the animal’s behavior, which so far had not been altered in any manner. It trotted into the brush and was gone. I had not even caught sight of his exit from where I was on the porch.

As soon as the last guest from the tour was out of sight, we walked back up to the brush where the lynx had eaten the grouse. Stephan had said when the lynx moved, gray jays squawked and fought over the fragments left behind. The only evidence we found of what transpired was one small circle of blood on the moss beside a log. If we had not seen the lynx, we would never have associated the small spot with an animal’s breakfast.

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