Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Once-trapped lynx back in wild

Freed after Thompson man spotted big cat limping in yard

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A limping lynx caught in a trap has been successfully returned to the wild, thanks to animal-control officers who went to great lengths to free the animal.

Stephen Kirby-McDougall spotted the unlucky lynx in the yard of his Thompson home on Feb. 28 when he stopped by home on his lunch break. He had grabbed his video camera and was safely seated in his truck to capture unique shots of the majestic wild cat when he was dismayed to see the animal's front left paw was ensnared in a large snow-covered trap with a chain trailing behind it.

"It was quite surreal. It was just sitting there in my front yard, and at first I thought it had its paw on something white, maybe a rabbit that had been around all season," said Kirby-McDougall, a geologist. "It was behind a snowbank and I noticed it was limping, but as soon as it came out into the driveway, I could see its paw and that was no rabbit.

"It was a trap, all iced up, on its foot."

The lynx loped into Kirby-McDougall's yard, where he shut the gate. But the lynx then got stuck in a hole in Kirby-McDougall's back fence. He didn't have the phone number for conservation officers handy, so he called his wife, Shawna, who works in the same building as Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship, and she alerted officials.

Conservation's Lyle Saskowski and Craig Delaronde of the City of Thompson's animal-control and protection office responded to the scene. Using Delaronde's snare pole, they were able to steady the animal so the trap could be removed while the lynx was stuck in the fence.

The lynx was caged and transported to the Conservation office where it was examined and released outside the city when no injury was detected.

"Lyle phoned me later that evening to let me know how things turned out," he said. "The trap was a rubber-coated leghold, a soft trap that grabs and holds, not the old metal slam-together. It didn't do any real physical damage as far as breaking the skin or bones or anything like that. It could bear weight and walk around so they released it in the bush."

What Kirby-McDougall didn't find out until later was the lynx had the trap on its paw for at least four days. It had already been spotted and Conservation officers had tried to capture it on the Monday before he saw it on the Thursday.

Jeanette Kimball, his wife's co-worker, had spotted it on Feb. 25 while cross-country skiing on the Crolly Trail.

"I've seen that lynx before on that trail, and this time it wasn't moving right away, and when it got up I could see it had this big crusty thing on its foot," said Kimball, who skis with a GPS so when she reported it to Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship as soon as she got off the trail, she gave officers the exact location. An officer went out and saw it, but it ran off.

"I couldn't stop thinking about it, that it's not going to be able to hunt rabbits and it's not stealthy anymore. It's in the bush, it's probably going to die," she said.

Kimball said when she later saw Kirby-McDougall's video, she was shocked at how much the animal had deteriorated in the four days since she had first seen it. On the ski trail later that week, she said, she could see from its footprints, thanks to the large mark made by the trap, it had crossed the Burntwood River to go towards the city and must have travelled a couple of kilometres with the trap on its foot.

"It's just a sweet story; it turned out so well," Kimball said. "It made my day when I heard."

Neither Delaronde or Saskowski could be reached for comment but both Kirby-McDougall and Kimball credited the pair with quick action to save the life of the lynx.

Kirby-McDougall said it was "pretty cool" that he and Shawna were able to tell their children aged 5, 7, and 9 there was a happy ending to the story.

"They were just pretty amazed that we had a lynx in our yard," he said. "We've had rabbits, grouse, fox but this was our first lynx."


See the YouTube video shot by Steve Kirby-McDougall at: Twitter: @WFPAshleyPrest

Youtube video shot by Steve Kirby-McDougall

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 7, 2013 A2

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