In a series of news posts called “Encounters with large carnivores” ALF will document the experiences of people in the field with large carnivores. The first post is by Andre Westendorp, a ranger from the Dutch Nature Monuments Foundation (Vereniging Natuurmonumenten), who had a rare encounter with a Lynx in France whilst on a holiday hiking last July.
This year my family and I spent a two week vacation in the Jura Mountains in France. As in 2007, we rented a nice old house in a small town called Grand Groupet near Gigny. The town, with just a couple of houses, is situated in a tranquil area on a hill site. The hills in the area go up to 1400 m, and higher up to 1800 m at the border with Switzerland. The valleys are mainly farmed for milk cattle, hay and grain. The foothills are covered with large tracts of beech, oak, pine and mixed woods. The partly cultural landscape is diverse, including many hedgerows of Prunus Spinosa, which enrich the biodiversity and support wildlife. Encounters with roe deer, red deer and wild boar are frequent. Mesocarnivores like fox and badger are common.
During vacations I love to explore the area around my stay and observe wildlife during sunrise and sunset. In the morning of July 27, I went for a hike in the forested hill that we can view from our holiday house. I climbed a very steep muddy trail, and after a reaching a larger forestry trail I took a rest. Above this trail the forest was cut open last winter. Whilst scanning the area my eye caught a movement. My first thought was “it’s probably a deer”, but then I noted more of a light greyish colour, not typical of mostly rusty coloured deer in summer. With my binoculars I looked at the animal standing motionless 40 meters above me. Wow… I was standing eye-to-eye with a beautiful lynx! I felt my heartbeat going up and carefully reached for my camera in my backpack, afraid that the cat would flee. Suprisingly, the lynx seemed quite relaxed and just layed down a bit higher up and observed me for a while. During that tense moment I was able to take a few photo’s with shaking hands (see below).
I thought: “who is more surprised?” We observed each other a couple of minutes and then the lynx blended back into the forest. I went back home to excitingly share my story with the family. The days following the encounter, I went up the hill several to look for the lynx. Although, not seen again, I did find some tracks likely to be from the same animal.
By André Westendorp