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Environment
South Slave
Yellowknife

More lynx encounters likely in coming weeks as another animal killed

Last modified: March 16, 2021 at 10:17am


NWT residents should expect more lynx sightings in the weeks ahead, a wildlife biologist said, following news of a second animal being killed – this time in Fort Smith.

A lynx was destroyed by wildlife officers in Yellowknife last month after reportedly attacking a dog on the city’s Tin Can Hill trail. The NWT’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources has now confirmed a second lynx was killed in Fort Smith after an incident in which a dog died.

“The dog was attacked outside near its owners’ home, and we are aware that it did pass away,” said department spokesperson Mike Westwick, who said the incident took place on February 22.

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“Our officers responded immediately upon receiving the report and, unfortunately, had to dispatch the lynx as it would not leave the deceased dog,” Westwick wrote.

“A necropsy on the lynx indicated that it was starving and heavily infested with parasites. This likely influenced their behaviour. We offer our condolences to the folks who lost their pet.”

Westwick said wildlife officers had noticed “unusual behaviour of lynx in several communities recently,” attributing that to a decrease in snowshoe hare numbers, making it harder for local lynx to find food.

“When the snowshoe hares crash, the lynx crash as well – maybe about a year or two lag time,” said NWT wildlife biologist Dean Cluff.

Cluff said snowshoe hare numbers last peaked in 2019. “Now we’re seeing this decline in the snowshoe hares and now the decline of the lynx,” he said.

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As a result, more lynx appear to be looking for food in built-up areas. Cluff said sightings will, if anything, pick up in the coming weeks.

“We might expect to see more lynx around this time of year. This is their mating season from about now to the end of April,” said Cluff. However, their lack of food this season will almost certainly mean fewer lynx this time next year.

Deciding to kill a lynx

Cluff said the choice is made to destroy a lynx when public safety is jeopardized. Where there are concerns that a lynx may be rabid, the animal must be killed before a rabies test can be administered as the only reliable test requires a sample of the animal’s brain.

The wildlife biologist said he was aware of two lynx being killed so far this season with no recent instances of the animals in the North Slave being caught and released.

Watch: Wildlife biologist Dean Cluff explains the lynx cycle.

“The one that was shot at Yellowknife’s dump, it was around town for at least two weeks. Officers were responding to it for some time – in the middle of the night, many times – and often the animal has gone by the time the officer gets there, which is why we encourage people to phone right away when they can,” said Cluff.

“We try to release it if we can, if it’s caught. That happens with foxes, we trap a fox and move it out of town. But in this situation, the lynx was pretty skinny and we probably had to euthanize it.

“We’re going to see a lot of young lynx die as the snowshoe hare declines. Are we going to move it and it’s going to just die somewhere else? That’s another factor we consider.”

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