By Jen McCoy
POYNETTE — A guttural sound emerged from a fringed Canada lynx on Tuesday as she made eye contact with a nearby mountain lion. The newest addition to MacKenzie Environmental Education Center made a production for a visitor, tossing around in the snow and leaping on a branch. They are all good signs that she is gaining comfort in the facility, according to Dan Mautz, wildlife technician for the MacKenzie Center.
Mautz drove to Moorhead, Minn., last Thursday to pick up the captive-bred lynx.
“The only part I didn’t know too much about was the disposition,” Mautz said. “Sometimes animals become nervous or skittish, but she’s been really good.”
The animal was legally captive-bred from a private exhibit, and therefore she is not releasable back to the wild. The 4-year-old lynx made the transition from her crate smoothly, Mautz said, and traveled in a covered cage back to Poynette. The
Wisconsin Wildlife Federation paid for the trip.
Derek Duane, director of the MacKenzie Center, said that the female lynx was a favorite of the private exhibit.
“Dan felt kind of bad because the man there said she was his favorite animal,” Duane said. “The wife is dealing with cancer right now, so it is not by choice that they have to get rid of them. It’s tough when people love animals.”
The educational center has been searching for a new Lynx since the previous animals died more than five years ago.
“We do have lynx included in our exhibit guide,” Mautz said. “And we had two before, but one died of old age at 16 and a year later, the other one died. They are hard to find.”
A private donor paid the majority of the $700 cost for the animal, and the Friends of MacKenzie Center helped in the purchase. Duane said that the private donor loved lynxes and twice donated $500 to the center.
The lynx enclosure is between two mountain lions and a shy bobcat. The big cats can smell and see each other, Mautz said, but the lynx will not go into an exercise pen for a few more weeks.
The Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) is native to Wisconsin but none have been seen in the wild for years. The elusive wildcat is about 20 pounds and 20 inches tall at the shoulder. Their distinctive markings of long, black ear tufts and a black-tipped tails set them apart from the bobcat, and they are much smaller in size, according to the National Wildlife Federation.
The expansive paws of the lynx enable the animal to walk on top of the snow, Mautz said. The female lynx demonstrated the walk and hardly made noise on the crunchy snow.
Wild lynx mostly prey on the snowshoe hare, a large northern rabbit that has a brown coat in the summer and white in the winter. The two species evolved together, according to the NWF, where the lynx became a specialist in hunting the hare and the hare becoming adept at eluding the lynx. An adult lynx will kill an average of one hare every two to three days, NWF says, and the big cat will otherwise hunt rodents, grouse and squirrel.
The Poynette lynx eats a pound of ground turkey a day, Mautz said, and she will be eating a specialty big cat food shortly.
The scarceness of the lynx in the United States has occurred from the hunting of the animal for pelts and the habitat deconstruction by humans. The animal was added to the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2000.
The lynx is available to be viewed by the public at the center located at W7303 County Road CS in Poynette. All exhibits are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and are free of charge, but donations are always appreciated.
Duane said that the center only accepts animals that are injured or orphaned, but sometimes the center adds an animal born in captivity. Out of respect for the wild animals, none of them are named or favored at the center.
But on the other hand, the lynx seems to have a soft spot for females.
“When I went to go visit her she was hiding in the enclosure,” Duane said. “But when she heard the voice of the female technician, she came right out.”