A Wild Lynx Appeared on My Friends’ Property—And Lived There for Weeks
Every now and then, you come across a wild animal that appears to seek human company. When one wildlife photographer's friends told her they'd found one, she knew she had to come get a look.
In March 2018, I got a call from some friends in northern Ontario, Canada: “There’s a female lynx on our property,” they told me. I’m a professional wildlife photographer and they knew I’d want to come and take a look. I dropped everything, packed my bags, and was out the door by 4 a.m. the next morning. My friends lived well north of North Bay, the better part of a day’s drive from my home in Toronto, but this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Canada lynx are not endangered but are typically elusive and secretive. I hoped this one would still be there when I arrived.
It was about 15 years ago that I became a wildlife photographer, and though it has become my passion, it came about out of necessity. I had always had a love for animals—pets and wildlife—despite having grown up in the city, and so I got a job working in a veterinarian’s office as an emergency nurse. I loved photography, too, and did pet portraits. But unfortunately, asthma eventually forced me to quit these indoor pursuits after I ended up in the ER due to attacks so severe I had to be put on life support. Becoming a wildlife photographer allowed me to pursue my passion for animals and photography while keeping safely away from the asthma-inducing animals and spending more time in a clean-air, outdoor environment.
As I got out of the car, my friend gestured towards a nearby snowbank—and there was the Canada lynx, sitting and watching me closely but without any apparent fear. I stood frozen in place, worried that I would spook her. Then, when the shock wore off, I realized this might be my only time seeing a Canada lynx up close. So I pulled my camera from the car and started taking photographs. She stayed around until dusk, and then she wandered into the dense forest and disappeared into the night.
When I awoke the next morning, I looked out my bedroom window and saw her curled up, sleeping on a dug-out bed she’d made in the snow. She stayed for a few hours, disappeared for a while, and then came back in the afternoon to sit underneath the bird feeder, waiting for unsuspecting birds and squirrels.
This almost daily routine lasted for weeks, and I had many chances to photograph her. She became accustomed to my presence and I maintained my distance, allowing her to choose a proximity that was comfortable to her. I decided that I would never follow her into the woods, because when she was ready to move on, I wanted her to be able to do so without feeling pursued. This was a hard decision as I would have loved to see where she went and have a chance to photograph her in different settings, but it was important that she trusted me and felt safe.
During my time at my friends’ house up north, I spent many hours watching the lynx sleep, sometimes from my chair outside the house, when the only movement was an occasional stretch, or flick of her ear. Occasionally, I was able to watch her hunt, groom herself, or walk around the areas bordering the forest. One day, I returned from a walk in the woods to find her sitting right underneath my chair.
But what’s even better than seeing one Canada lynx in the wild? Seeing two! One day that March, I saw a different lynx on the driveway. The newcomer left very quickly, obviously not comfortable with my presence. But the next day, I was watching the first lynx sleep when I saw movement in the bush. The other lynx came out into the open and walked up and sniffed the female. At this point, I was sure the new one was a visiting male. The female raised her head but didn’t get up, and the male gave up and walked away. The sounds of them calling to each other were haunting and beautiful, and could be heard often.
I visited my friends’ home frequently over the winter and last saw the female in early May. There had been the sound of lynx screaming the night before—previously, I’d only heard those sounds in online videos. It’s purely a guess, but I think yet another male lynx was in the area and drove the pair away.
It was difficult knowing that my time with her was now over, and I never expected to be that lucky again. It was impossible not to worry about her safety after spending so much time with her. I felt that we had shared a special bond, and while I was grateful for the time I’d had with the lynx, it led to a feeling of loss when she left.
Then, after Christmas in 2018, I received another text from my friend telling me that the female was back again, arriving much earlier than she had the previous winter. How could I be this lucky? This time, the Canada lynx visited the area for more than four months, and much of my winter was spent up there. Sometimes she’d be gone for a few days, but more often than not she would be in one of her favorite spots when I woke up each morning.
Every now and then, you come across an animal that doesn’t follow the expected behavior of their species, and I’m not referring to habituated animals that have learned to beg for food. Some wild animals appear to develop a bond with a specific person or people they have chosen, while avoiding others. Canada lynx are commonly thought to be elusive and secretive, but that hasn’t been my experience. I can’t explain the behavior of this particular lynx, but I’m lucky to have witnessed it.
Although I wasn’t home much over those winters, I was exactly where I wanted to be: in the company of my friends and this very special lynx, and exploring the outdoors.
I enjoyed every minute of it, including some intense snowstorms and temperatures that, with the wind chill, occasionally hit minus 50 degrees Celsius! It was the experience of a lifetime that included moments I will always treasure.
Next, read about a backpacker who encountered a bear in the wild—and became its friend.