On May 5, 2019, WPBO hawk counter Krista Botting and visitors to the hawk platform were greeted with a view of a rare visitor: a Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis). The wild cat wandered out of the tree line to the northwest of the platform, sat under a large white pine for a moment, then carried on. The animal has not been seen since.

A Canada lynx seen at WPBO on May 5, 2019. Photo by Bruce Gates

Fortunately, WPBO visitor Bruce Gates captured photographs that we sent to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for species confirmation. Dan Kennedy, Endangered Species Coordinator at MDNR, confirmed our suspicions that the wild cat seen was, in fact, a state threatened lynx.

Tracks from the Canada lynx in the sand. Photo by Charlotte R. Catalano

At present, there are no known breeding populations in Michigan or anywhere in the Midwest. However, some might remember that this past winter a young female Canada lynx was caught in the Saginaw area, and later released in Schoolcraft Co., Michigan. Before that, the last verified lynx sighting was on Sugar Island in 2010. While there is no way to know if the lynx seen at Whitefish Point was the same lynx released, the possibility does exist.

Much like the birds we get at the Point, the lynx, regardless of whether or not it was the one released, most likely found its way to the shores of Lake Superior and had been following the shoreline.

You might wonder how a lynx can be differentiated from a bobcat (Lynx rufus). A few characteristics to look for on lynx are noticeably larger ear tufts, the ankle not dropping right down into the paw, and larger paws that stick out past the ankles.

Please note that the lynx did not display any threatening behavior nor interest in the humans nearby. However, anytime you walk in a natural area be aware that there are wild animals around you and it is advised you keep your dog on a leash. (Dogs are not permitted off leash at the Point at any time but it is especially important during the breeding season of the federally endangered Piping Plover.)

If you have photos of a potential lynx in Michigan, please contact: DNR-Wildlife@michigan.gov

– Charlotte R. Catalano, WPBO Field Ornithologist

Featured Image: A Canada lynx underneath the pines at WPBO on May 5, 2019. Photo by Bruce Gates