How to Catch a (Wild)cat

Tracking lynx across the vast landscapes of Alaska

The Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis)
Lynx are similar in size and appearance to a bobcat, but have longer ear tufts and feet specially adapted for deep snow.
Left photo: snowshoe hare tracks cross a frozen northern lake. Right photo: a lynx opens up into a sprint down the trail.
A lynx squints into the sun, showing the vertical pupil shape that is typical in small ambush hunters, especially felines.
The moon setting over frozen March tundra and black spruce forest.

Catching Cats

In the frosty pre-dawn light, Bertram slips on a green aviation-style headset and begins to turn knobs and flip switches on a signal receiver box that connects to a long antenna outside of the cabin. He goes through frequencies assigned to about 30 different trap monitors, listening carefully until he reaches one that transmits a different pattern of beeps: a trap has closed in the night, possibly with a lynx inside.

Listening for lynx
Getting ready for the Arctic environment. Middle photo: “bunny boots” are a favorite cold weather boot in the far north.
The research team travels by snowmachine along a trapline.
Scent lures of beaver and wildcat
Re-setting a trap and hanging up a visual feather cue nearby
Bertram crouches down in front of a captured lynx.
An injection needle with sedative attaches to a long “jab stick,” allowing Bertram to inject the cat from a distance through the cage.
Carrying a sedated lynx out of the trap.
Attaching a GPS collar, measuring the hind foot, and measuring teeth as part of data collection about the health of the lynx.
As she shakes off the sedative, the lynx begins to right herself onto the snow.
Heading back into the forest.
Watch a short video about tracking and trapping lynx at Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge

Stories from Alaska by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service