I grew up on a homestead located thirty-two miles north of Talkeetna, Alaska. In the early 1970s, we had a winter that was particularly hard on the wild animals in our area. There’s a trickledown effect when the winter is harsh and food is scarce, and lynx are as affected by this as any other species.
One morning we noticed that my brother’s dog, Copper, was acting really odd. At that time, we kept our dogs tied up on logging chains attached to thick leather collars. This kept them from getting into porcupines in the summer; in the winter, it kept them from running off to join wolf packs or getting hit by trains. This particular day, Copper was at the end of his chain, feet planted wide apart, acting like he wanted to play. Nose to nose. With a wild lynx.
This would have been just fine, if the object of Copper’s affections had been anything other than a wild lynx. According to the Alaska Department of Fish & Game’s website (http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=lynx.main), a typical adult lynx will weigh in at anywhere from 18 to 30 or 40 pounds, or about the size of a dog. This is what a healthy, well-fed specimen looks like:
Our lynx was fluffy, to be sure, but it had one thing on its mind, and playing was definitely not it. The rabbit population in the Sherman area had crashed and there were very few small animals around that winter for the lynx to hunt, and this one was starving. My mother took out my brother’s 4.10 rifle and loaded it. While the dog kept the lynx busy, my mother sighted the rifle in and shot the lynx. Fortunately for the dog, her aim was good…and the lynx did not survive.
When we skinned the lynx, the spaces between its ribs were so sunken that you could insert at least two fingers. It likely wouldn’t have lasted the winter anyway…and Copper was more important than the lynx. At any rate…this is my favorite photo of my mom. She looks tough and self-sufficient, which she was and is…and the lynx was beautiful…and you can see how much snow we had that winter.
The story behind this photograph isn’t necessarily a feel-good thing…but then, the real world is a really tough one for animals, and the truth is that the kinder, gentler world desired for animals by so many animal lovers? That world just doesn’t exist. The real world is rough. Animals starve to death, are killed by other animals, and people tend to prefer to keep their dogs alive as opposed to sparing the life of a lynx.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post, with the prompt “Share a photo and the story behind it.” Thanks to the ever-amazing Kristi Rieger Campbell of Finding Ninee, and Kenya Johnson of Sporadically Yours.