The wraith of the northern forest

There are three native wild cats in the Canadian north. One of them, the Mountain Lion or Puma, apparently has been sighted several times in the past but whether it is really here or not is still a subject for debate.
The smallest of the three, the Bobcat (Lynx rufus), is quite common throughout almost all of southern Canada and the United States. The third, the Lynx (Lynx canadensis), is a native of the northern part of this continent.
Both the lynx and bobcat are quite well-known to trappers in the north.
The lynx is the ghost hunter of the northern forest and is found in the boreal regions all around the world. It generally prefers the dense woods, where it slips silently on broad, padded feet.
It will stalk its prey like your common house cat stalks a mouse, or it will lie in wait for hours along a rabbit trail. Its broad feet enable it to run on even soft snow very well, and its heavy claws and large fangs can kill almost anything it can catch.
The major food of this animal is the Snowshoe Hare, which makes up about 70 percent of its diet. So dependent is the lynx on these hares that the population of both species follows almost exactly the same cycle.
About every 10 years or so, the population of hares rises to a big peak (there are hares everywhere). About a year later, so does the population of the lynx.
A few years later, the population of hares crashes down to a very low number. The lynx does the same about a year later.
Records have been kept by the Hudson’s Bay Company for more than 250 years, which show the regular rise and fall of these two species. The peaks for hares occur in years ending in zero and one; those for lynx ending in one and two.
The lows of the cycles normally happen in year seven or close to it.
Lynx also will eat grouse, ptarmigan, and other birds, as well as mice, voles, squirrels, and whatever other small mammals they can catch. They also will take fawns, and if they are near civilization, chickens, lambs, and small calves.
But they tend to stay away from built-up areas.
A healthy deer is too large and strong an animal for a lynx to take alone unless he is very hungry, indeed. There have been cases reported where a lynx has been able to hang onto a deer’s throat until it bled to death.
Lynx are trapped for their fur, which has always been considered quite valuable. The underfur is soft and very thick, making an excellent insulator from the northern cold. The colours of grey or light brown are very decorative.
In Ontario, lynx can be trapped but not hunted.
The Canada Lynx is the true wraith of the forest, stealing about on padded feet. It keeps well out of sight of man, if it can. Not too many people have ever seen a lynx in the wild.
Like all kittens, young lynx are very cute and cuddly-looking. But they are anything but cuddly. Try to touch them and they turn into hissing, scratching, clawing little bundles of fury.
People have tried, and they have the scratched and chewed-up hands to show for it!

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