On a sunny spring day at the Tetlin national Wildlife Refuge near Tok in Interior Alaska, a lynx stands on a trail in a snowy forest calling for a female. This big male is exploring the home ranges of neighboring lynx, looking for a mate. Researchers with the Tetlin refuge are studying these northern wild cats and their dietary mainstay, snow shoe hares, and they've equipped 22 lynx with tracking collars since March of 2015. They've also set up a series of remote, motion-triggered trail cameras to capture video footage and audio clips of lynx. This lynx doesn't know it, but he's on camera.
The collars have also enabled the biologists to find mother lynx in early summer and document lynx dens. They've visited five dens - all in very thick underbrush in prime snow shoe hare habitat - and examined and documented 24 lynx kittens.
Lynx weigh between 20 and 30 pounds but because of their thick and luxurious fur coats, they look bigger. They have massive paws that act like snowshoes and enable them to travel easily on deep, light snow in search of their favorite prey, snow shoe hares. They also eat red squirrels, grouse and other birds they catch opportunistically, but hares are their mainstay. Hare numbers shift in roughly ten year boom and bust cycles and hares may be ten times more numerous in peak years. When hare numbers crash, lynx may travel long distances in search of food.