Once a month, we’ll chronicle an elusive photographic goal. In this month’s The Chase: Lynx.
We’ve been very fortunate to see some remarkable sights in the wild. In fact, given the amount of time we’ve spent in the field (not that much, by comparison to many photographers, given our day jobs) and the fact we’re rarely able to do photography during wildlife prime time (the spring), it’s incredible that we’ve seen as much as we have.
For many of the animal photos we’ve captured, hundreds of hours of tracking and waiting have gone into the result. And, of course, getting ‘the shot’ almost always involves a bit of luck – even if the luck is usually a byproduct of hard work.
But to photograph some animals, you just have to be in the right spot, at the right time. Lynx are one of those animals.
I have been given a few leads over the years. Places where I could wait (and be bitten alive, it seems) and maybe have a 10% chance to see a lynx walk a steam or animal trail. But I’ve always come up empty handed.
The reality is, unlike bears and wolves, photographing cats in the wild is notoriously difficult. They are mostly nocturnal, secretive and don’t follow definitive, trackable patterns (like bears). Just being given a 10% chance of seeing a lynx I felt was akin to winning the lottery. So actually seeing one? I think it’s like belonging to an exclusive club. Like being an astronaut.
Most people I know who’ve seen a lynx in the wild have either lived their entire life in the wilderness – increasing their chances of stumbling across the cat – or have captured lightning in a bottle by being in the right place, at the right time.
Most sightings appear to be in the north – especially Alaska and the Yukon, areas Jill and I long to explore when the budget allows. Some stem from the vast Canadian boreal forest, including right here in Ontario – though just pinpointing where to focus the search seems like mission impossible. But almost none emanate from the area we spend most of our time, Yellowstone – home to an extremely small cat population as a whole and an even smaller lynx population.
The closest I’ve come to spotting a lynx would have been my near decision to buy tickets to the snowboard event at Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Halfway through the event, a lynx sauntered across the course. Who could have guessed.
And if AirMiles had enough point-based seats remaining, I would have hopped on a flight to Calgary to search for the lynx that was being seen with some regularity in the Lake Louise area of Banff National Park two winters ago.
Indeed, winter does appear to be the best time of year to see a lynx, due to the ease with which you can identify its tracks and follow their primary prey, snowshoe hares. And if I knew of a place where I could wait and increase my odds of tracking this cat, I would do it in a heartbeat, no matter the temperature.
The lynx is one animal where getting a perfect photo isn’t my primary goal. Just to see one in the wild would be fantastic.
Not long ago, I felt the same way about cougars; I wondered if I would ever see one in the wild. Then we saw a cougar and I felt that feeling of hopelessness lift.
But what are the odds of lightening striking twice? Hopefully in the years to come, we’ll be able to spend more time in the wild and increase our odds of being in the right place, at the right time to see a lynx.
The chase is on.