A researcher in Canada has reported a find at just the right time for spooky season: a black-haired Canada lynx (Canada lynx). This appears to be the first recorded sighting of a lynx with this particular coloration.
The encounter with the black lynx actually happened in August 2020, when Thomas Jung, a wildlife biologist and professor at the University of Alberta, spotted the unusual cat in a rural area near the city of Whitehorse. , Yukon. He managed to get a 30 second video of it on his cell phone from about 50 meters away. The lynx seemed relatively comfortable in the presence of several people and a dog, but eventually walked away, possibly due to the barking of the dog. Jung, also a government employee for the Yukon Territory, said he then contacted several lynx experts, who all agreed he saw the real deal.
Jung’s findings, including images captured on video, were published this month in Mammalia magazine. The video can be seen on Youtube.
Domestic cats are known for a wide range of coat colors, but the same is not true for cats in the lynx family. The Canada lynx typically has a silvery or grayish coat in the winter, which can change to a reddish-brown coat dotted with black spots in the summer. Thus, the black gaze of this lynx, also known as melanism, is so rare that it is apparently the first documented case in this species. This grainy quality of the video unfortunately doesn’t allow for a very detailed exploration of the lynx’s unique coat, but the cat appeared to have whitish-gray hairs along its outer coat and facial ruff.
It’s also unclear whether his coloring is an advantage or a disadvantage to his survival, though Jung speculates it’s likely the latter. This is because the Canada lynx generally hunts the snowshoe hare. These hares like to frequent burnt-out forests, where the cat’s black coat may not stand out during the warmer months of the year. “However, the dark-colored Canada lynx is likely much less camouflaged as snowshoe hare in winter when the ground is covered in deep snow,” Jung wrote. “Therefore, melanistic individuals would be at a distinct disadvantage when hunting hares in winter.”
Although their numbers are stable in northern Canada and Alaska, Canada lynx populations are vanish elsewhere in the United States and in southern Canada. Human encroachment and the effects of climate change, such as more frequent and violent forest fires, are expected to further threaten the species.