Last week, Canadians across the country were enthralled by a viral video of a Canada lynx outside the post office in Terrace Bay, Ontario.
Usually, the elusive wild cats steer clear of humans, and there were a number of lessons to be learned from the encounter—namely that lynx do not respond positively to the call of “kitty kitty.”
Here are 15 other facts you may not have known about this amazing animal:
1. The lynx is more than twice the size of a house cat. It ranges in size from five to 17 kilograms, which is smaller than its cousin, the Eurasian lynx.
2. Lynx have natural snowshoes for feet. Unlike cougars or other wild cats, lynx don’t sink into the snow. Their long, round feet have a big toe set at a wide angle, which helps to distribute their weight and allows them to stay on top of the snow. This makes it easier to hunt in deeper snow at higher altitudes.
3. The rare “blue lynx” is the result of a genetic mutation. Usually their fur ranges in colour from grey to reddish-brown.
4. Lynx hunt at night. Although they lack stamina and they’re not particularly fast, lynx have big eyes and superb hearing, making them well equipped for the task.
5. Their tufted ears help to enhance hearing. Their eyes are also strong and the wild cats can spot a mouse from 250 feet away.
6. Lynx are specialized hunters. Although lynx have been known to eat prey as large as deer, along with birds and other small mammals, their cuisine of choice is snowshoe hares, which make up to 90 percent of their diet.
7. When the Snowshoe Hare species spikes, so does the Canada lynx’s. With such an exclusive diet, the two populations exist in synchronicity with one another.
8. Records of Canada lynx populations have been kept since the 1730s, thanks to the Hudson’s Bay Company. Back then, records were kept for fur trading purposes. Today, they’re kept for conservation purposes. In 2010, it was estimated that there were around 110,000 lynx in Canada.
9. The Newfoundland Lynx, a subspecies, is larger than its mainland counterparts. It’s even been known to kill caribou.
10. The lynx has a large territory of between 15 and 50 square kilometres. However, there have been reported instances of the cats having territories of more than 700 square kilometres.
11. Urine is used to mark their territory. It turns out appearance isn’t the only thing lynx have in common with domestic housecats. (But buyers beware; their habit of marking is also one of the many qualities that makes them unsuitable as an exotic pet.)
12. Breeding season only lasts for one month once a year. In between March and May (dependent on the location), females come into oestrus for only three to five days.
13. Lynx do not build a den. Instead, they make a home for their kittens in existing natural features, such as a fallen log, a root system or ground depressions surrounded by dense cover.
14. Litters are between one and eight kittens. They’re born with bright blue eyes, which darken to brown as they mature.
15. In 1903, a Canada Lynx was shot and killed in the UK. It’s considered the “earliest recorded example of an exotic cat on the loose in the UK” (yes, there’s a category for this). It’s theorized that the big cat was being kept as an exotic pet.