Meeting in Broad Daylight

The National reserve Belovezhskaya Puscha is home for a rare species, the lynx
The Pozhe­zhinsky forest, in the Malorita District of the Brest Region) has a screen on a large tree “Beware of Cats!” I happened to meet one of them in a fire-break not long ago. The spotted beauty was drinking from a puddle. A real lynx! My heart gave a leap. What if it attacks! But the cat drank, cleaned its paws like domesticated cats do it and strolled into the forest.
I stood near the puddle for some time thinking: why did the wild animal that prefers hunting at night leave its hiding in the broad daylight and drink from a puddle without seeing or smelling a human being?

Aleksei Bunevich, who works in the reserve, believes I was just lucky: he had met a lynx in the wild, not in the open-air cage, twice over 30 years he has been working there. The lynx is very secretive, and even specialists cannot say how many lynxes there are in Belovezhskaya Puscha or in the whole country. The number is estimated between 25 and 30 in the reserve.
When asked whether it was too many for the 900,000-hectare Puscha responded there could never be too many: lynxes feel shortages of food and simply leave the site, especially young male lynxes. To study the migration of these animals specialists of the reserve caught 17 lynxes once and gave them collars with beacons. One lynx was registered a hundred kilometers away from that spot in just two weeks. The program “Ecology of Lynx” is over now, and the beacons do not work anymore, so it is impossible to follow the migration of the rare animal now.

— A lynx can eat up to five kilograms of flesh from the killed prey, then it hides the corpse and feeds on it for another week or so. They hunt roes, but can sometimes even feed on mice. A cat is always a cat.

The chief game warden of the Pruzhany forestry farm, Stepan Kotylo, who supervises the Pozhezhinsky forest, does not really like lynxes too much: they kill roes.

— Lynxes are very attractive for hunters, but I don’t believe they are endangered. At the same time, we might face problems with roes. Wolves are also to blame, but we shot a large pack last year. Besides, lynxes like to hunt wood grouse, another problem for the forestry, which makes money attracting foreign hunters. It appears the Pruzhany Puscha suffers losses because of the large naughty cats.

There is an opinion that lynxes are to be shot, but I feel sorry for them: according to Aleksei Bunevich, there have been no cases of attacking people since WWII. My meeting with the lynx is good proof.

by Olga Svanssen
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