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Canada Lynx: The Ghost Cat of the North

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Photo credit: Flickr user Keith Williams.

Of the four existing species in the genus Lynx, two live in North America. One is the bobcat; the other is its furry northern cousin, the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis). The Canada lynx ranges across Canada and Alaska, with smaller populations extending into Montana, Maine, and several other states. Although the Canada lynx is usually larger than a bobcat, their ranges overlap and they sometimes interbreed. Their territories also overlap with mountain lions, but a mountain lion will kill a lynx.

Photo credit: Flickr user Eric Kilby.

A lynx may look huge to an observer because it is a wild predator, but it is not considered a "big cat." They are 19-24 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 18-24 pounds, making them about twice the size of a house cat. They are good swimmers, excellent at climbing trees, and can leap long distances, leaving conservationists looking far and wide for tracks in the snow.

Photo credit: Flickr user Jeremy McBride.

The Canada lynx is remarkable for its thick winter fur and its tremendously large feet and webbed toes. This cat can run across the top of thick snow as if it were wearing snowshoes, although with a much more graceful gait. Its primary winter prey is the snowshoe hare, and lynx populations rise and fall with the availability of hares.

Photo credit: James Weliver/USFWS via Flickr.

The State of Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service beginning in 1999 to study Maine's lynx population. The diminishing number of lynx in Maine is thought to be due to climate change and the lack of adequate snow in recent decades. A team of wildlife biologists photographed a series of den visits in 2010, which you can see in this Flickr set.

Photo credit: Flickr user Angell Williams.

The U.S. Forest Service began tracking lynx populations in 1997. In Montana, lynx are trapped in cages, sedated, measured and sampled, and fitted with GPS collars before being freed.  

Photo credit: James Weliver/USFWS via Flickr.

A female lynx will give birth to a kindle of two to five kittens a year, depending on the abundance of prey. Kindles of up to eight kittens are possible, however. The snowshoe hare population rises and falls in a cycle that lasts around ten years. While other predators move on to other meals when the hares are scarce, the Canada lynx depends on them, and their numbers follow the same cycle as the hares – at least in Canada. In Montana, Wyoming, and other states, loss of habitat, illegal hunting, and unpredictable weather make survival harder for both hares and the lynx.

Image credit: Devineaux, et al, Journal of Wildlife Management, 2010.

The lynx was once common in Colorado, but was totally wiped out in the state by the 1970s. In 1999, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife department introduced 96 lynx into the state. By 2002, the number had dropped to 34. Some had been shot, others hit by cars, and still others had starved. Subsequent relocations of Canada lynx fared better, with a total of 218 cats imported from Canada to Colorado. The first observed lynx kittens born to the reintroduced cats in Colorado were seen in 2003, and subsequent litters have been documented. The lynx in Colorado have learned to eat squirrels as a supplement to their rabbit diet. Although the actual number of lynx in Colorado is impossible to assess, the reintroduction program has been deemed a success. A motorist spotted these cats last weekend on Molas Pass between Silverton and Durango.  
 

Photo credit: Flickr user digitalART2.

In the United States, the Canada lynx is designated as a threatened species, except in Alaska. The population of Canada lynx is diminishing in Washington state because logging has restricted the size of forests, but a conservation group managed to set aside 25,000 acres of forest in 1999 for the estimated 150 cats in the state. In 1999 and 2000, a hair-trapping experiment failed to find any evidence of lynxes in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, although sporadic reports of sightings still come in. A program to reintroduce lynx to the Adirondack Mountains of New York between 1989 and 1992 failed when none of the 83 cats were able to be tracked successfully, and occasional reported sightings are considered to be bobcats. Lynx have been sighted in New Hampshire, but it is not known whether they came from Maine, New York, or Canada.   

Photo credit: Flickr user Jeremy McBride.

If you ever see a lynx, grab your camera quickly, as they prefer to stay hidden. Goodbye!

See also: 8 Obscure But Adorable Wildcat Species

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Space
Google Street View Now Lets You Explore the International Space Station

Google Street View covers some amazing locations (Antarctica, the Grand Canyon, and Stonehenge, to name a few), but it’s taken until now for the tool to venture into the final frontier. As TechCrunch reports, you can now use Street View to explore the inside of the International Space Station.

The scenes, photographed by astronauts living on the ISS, include all 15 modules of the massive satellite. Viewers will be treated to true 360-degree views of the rooms and equipment onboard. Through the windows, you can see Earth from an astronaut's perspective and a SpaceX Dragon craft delivering supplies to the crew.

Because the imagery was captured in zero gravity, it’s easy to lose sense of your bearings. Get a taste of what ISS residents experience on a daily basis here.

[h/t TechCrunch]

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travel
6 East Coast Castles to Visit for a Fairy Tale Road Trip
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Lucy Quintanilla/iStock

Once the stuff of fairy tales and legends, a variety of former castles have been repurposed today as museums and event spaces. Enough of them dot the East Coast that you can plan a summer road trip to visit half a dozen in a week or two, starting in or near New York City. See our turrent-rich itinerary below.

STOP 1: BANNERMAN CASTLE // BEACON, NEW YORK

59 miles from New York City

The crumbling exterior of Bannerman Castle
Garrett Ziegler, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Bannerman Castle can be found on its very own island in the Hudson River. Although the castle has fallen into ruins, the crumbling shell adds visual interest to the stunning Hudson Highlands views, and can be visited via walking or boat tours from May to October. The man who built the castle, Scottish immigrant Frank Bannerman, accumulated a fortune shortly after the Civil War in his Brooklyn store known as Bannerman’s. He eventually built the Scottish-style castle as both a residence and a military weapons storehouse starting in 1901. The island remained in his family until 1967, when it was given to the Taconic Park Commission; two years later it was partially destroyed by a mysterious fire, which led to its ruined appearance.

STOP 2. GILLETTE CASTLE STATE PARK // EAST HADDAM, CONNECTICUT

116 miles from Beacon, New York

William Gillette was an actor best known for playing Sherlock Holmes, which may have something to do with where he got the idea to install a series of hidden mirrors in his castle, using them to watch guests coming and going. The unusual-looking stone structure was built starting in 1914 on a chain of hills known as the Seven Sisters. Gillette designed many of the castle’s interior features (which feature a secret room), and also installed a railroad on the property so he could take his guests for rides. When he died in 1937 without designating any heirs, his will forbade the possession of his home by any "blithering sap-head who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.” The castle is now managed by the State of Connecticut as Gillette Castle State Park.

STOP 3. BELCOURT CASTLE // NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

74 miles from East Haddam, Connecticut

The exterior of Belcourt castle
Jenna Rose Robbins, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Prominent architect Richard Morris Hunt designed Belcourt Castle for congressman and socialite Oliver Belmont in 1891. Hunt was known for his ornate style, having designed the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, but Belmont had some unusual requests. He was less interested in a building that would entertain people and more in one that would allow him to spend time with his horses—the entire first floor was designed around a carriage room and stables. Despite its grand scale, there was only one bedroom. Construction cost $3.2 million in 1894, a figure of approximately $80 million today. But around the time it was finished, Belmont was hospitalized following a mugging. It took an entire year before he saw his completed mansion.

STOP 4. HAMMOND CASTLE MUSEUM // GLOUCESTER, MASSACHUSETTS

111 miles from Newport, Rhode Island

Part of the exterior of Hammond castle
Robert Linsdell, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Inventor John Hays Hammond Jr. built his medieval-style castle between 1926 and 1929 as both his home and a showcase for his historical artifacts. But Hammond was not only interested in recreating visions of the past; he also helped shape the future. The castle was home to the Hammond Research Corporation, from which Hammond produced over 400 patents and came up with the ideas for over 800 inventions, including remote control via radio waves—which earned him the title "the Father of Remote Control." Visitors can take a self-guided tour of many of the castle’s rooms, including the great hall, indoor courtyard, Renaissance dining room, guest bedrooms, inventions exhibit room, library, and kitchens.

STOP 5. BOLDT CASTLE // ALEXANDRIA BAY, THOUSAND ISLANDS, NEW YORK

430 miles from Gloucester, Massachusetts

It's a long drive from Gloucester and only accessible by water, but it's worth it. The German-style castle on Heart Island was built in 1900 by millionaire hotel magnate George C. Boldt, who created the extravagant structure as a summer dream home for his wife Louise. Sadly, she passed away just months before the place was completed. The heartbroken Boldt stopped construction, leaving the property empty for over 70 years. It's now in the midst of an extensive renovation, but the ballroom, library, and several bedrooms have been recreated, and the gardens feature thousands of plants.

STOP 6. FONTHILL CASTLE // DOYLESTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA

327 miles from Alexandria Bay, New York

Part of the exterior of Fonthill castle

In the mood for more castles? Head south to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where Fonthill Castle was the home of the early 20th century American archeologist, anthropologist, and antiquarian Henry Chapman Mercer. Mercer was a man of many interests, including paleontology, tile-making, and architecture, and his interest in the latter led him to design Fonthill Castle as a place to display his colorful tile and print collection. The inspired home is notable for its Medieval, Gothic, and Byzantine architectural styles, and with 44 rooms, there's plenty of well-decorated nooks and crannies to explore.

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