It has been speculated/reported that this is a naturally occurring down year in the local Snowshoe Hare population. As evidence for this, there have been multiple sightings of Lynx in residential areas here in Kamloops this winter. Although there are healthy Lynx numbers in the hills around Kamloops (based on camera trapping), it is unusual for them to wander into town. Lynx usually feed on Snowshoe Hare so when their numbers drop, they will appear in unusual places feeding on unusual prey. At least two other Lynx have been caught in residential areas and taken to the BC Wildlife Park this winter because of where they were and what they were doing. Both were released after being treated for minor health issues I believe. Then one day people were in a local park feeding ducks when a Canada Lynx suddenly darted out of a nearby hedge and grabbed one of the ducks. You can imagine the emotions of those in the area after such an incident. Probably everything from fear to excitement. Soon a crown gathered and the news began to spread. Curious passers by and photographers began to gather at this location as it became clear this individual had found a reliable food source and wasn’t leaving any time soon. On one occasion, at least a couple weeks after the initial sighting, someone got a video of another successful duck grab and soon it was making the social media rounds. As a precaution, Conservation Officers visited the site and put up some yellow tape around an area where it likes to lay down to keep photographers from venturing too close to it. Yesterday morning, I stopped by and was able to find it snoozing in some brush. Usually it is hidden and difficult to photograph but it has taken strolls around from time to time. It also has spent a lot of time in a stalking position watching the nearby ducks, perhaps waiting for one to get within a certain range where it feels it can be successful. This rare opportunity to see a Lynx and possibly get some good photos has, of course, attracted many. You are almost guaranteed to see it as of right now, almost like paying to go to a zoo/wildlife park and looking for it in its enclosure. Personally, I have enjoyed being there several times and just watching it while hoping for a chance to get a picture.
This has been (and continues to be) an interesting case study of what happens when people interact with a wild animal. The Lynx is obviously hanging around this area of a city park because there are a group of mallards that are easy targets. They are easy targets because people feed them. People usually feed them at the same spot so the ducks are loyal to that area. There is a sign at that area telling people not to feed the wildlife with a photo of a mallard on it but people have been feeding ducks there for years. Of course if people didn’t feed ducks there the Lynx wouldn’t be there now. I don’t think anything above is an opinion or could be argued.
The difference of opinion comes in when we look at how people react to this. These reactions are usually based on personal experience. If someone has seen or heard about photographers harassing wildlife in the past (and there are plenty of examples of this), assumptions will be made that this is happening in this case as well. These types of people, though they may be photographers themselves, will view others at the Lynx site with suspicion until proven innocent. They will also advise people walking past with dogs that this is a dog-free park, fulfilling their social responsibility. Photographers who rarely or never ask themselves if they are harassing wildlife will jump into a photo opportunity such as this with both feet and not look back. These types of people will even bait the mallards close to where they know the Lynx is just to try to get the perfect photo of a kill in progress of the immediate aftermath. The shot is everything. People passing by on their daily exercise will have a brief look and usually give an opinion about the cuteness of the animal. Those in the position of wildlife management and/or education (Conservation Officers and Wildsafe BC in this case) will give the media some headlines/soundbites such as “We’re monitoring the situation” or “we’re concerned about ….” or “the welfare of the animal is our priority” when someone reaches out to them for a story. There are also those who would call themselves (or at least speak like they are) experts on Lynx behaviour declaring that the animal is stressed or not acting normally. This may be true, but what a great place for a Lynx to not act normally!
In the end, it has become a very special opportunity for people who don’t usually see Canadian Lynx to see one. A good friend of mine recently mentioned that maybe this Lynx could be a hook to draw more people into appreciating nature and becoming a nature lover. It has certainly grabbed the attention of the local community and others. As of this morning, it’s still there, laying directly in front of the platform where most photographers gather.