Face to Face With the Wild: Kids

Face to Face With the Wild: Kids

Face to Face With the Wild: Kids

5 minute read 

Yukon Kids

It’s a warm and sunny Wednesday in July. After driving past Jesse the moose, some handsome sheep, and innumerable little squirrels I step off the bus with 22 eager campers following. We’re just about to head out for a little walk. But then… I catch one little camper frolicking around in her bare feet.

“Jasmine! Where are your shoes?”

“Shoes?! I don’t need those: I’m a Yukon kid!”

Campers sometimes teach the instructors at YWP school programs.

Sometimes it’s the campers who teach us educators about their favorite plants and animals.

Hidden Kids

On a normal trip to the Preserve it’s easy to get lost in our own experiences. After all, how can you not? When you see golden sunshine through the grass; when you and the little muskox lock eyes; or when one of our guides tells a chilling story. These experiences are what we come for, but we aren’t the only visitors here.

The Yukon Wildlife Preserve sees over one thousand students and campers come through our doors every year. Winter and spring school programs, Swan Haven programs, March Break Nature camp, and summer nature camps are all in our calendar. The Wildlife Preserve has its own department dedicated to bringing enriching and educational experiences to Yukon youth. As an outdoor educator this what first brought me to the Preserve, and it’s also one of the things that I think makes the Preserve a very special place.

Unfortunately, the public doesn’t often get to hear about all of the incredible experiences we offer students and children. If you, like me, are a little too old to attend these wonderful programs I’m here to tell you that you’re also in luck! I’ve done all the running around – the booger wiping, rule giving, question answering, and “yes, you can go pee”ing – so you don’t have to. Join me as I take a walk down Memory Lane, looking back at this last year with our Education team. But be prepared to take chances, make mistakes, get messy. So let’s tie up our shoes and get Face to Face with: The Wild Kids of the Yukon.

Kids holding up moose antlers outside in the snow.

A happy student trying on their new favorite hat.

Time to Plan

Though our ears are still ringing from a summer full of campers, it’s a very different story in our office this time of year. Our Manager of Education and Programming sits quietly and plans for the year to come.

‘Have we sent all the thank-you cards?’

‘How many more plastic animals do we need to buy?’

‘Where do I even buy a plastic muskox?’

We ruminate at length on these pressing topics. After all, one missing muskox now may break the heart of a muskox-loving little boy eight months later. And so, slowly, we debrief the past year and plan into the next.

Cool Kids

​February comes creeping up and at this point we (Education and Programming) are a very tiny snowball at the top of a very large hill. Our winter programs are the little kick that gets us going. A modest start to a full year of programming. This time of year, our programs focus on winter ecology and cold weather adaptations.

With a sizeable (750-acre) classroom, we bring students along our trails in order to teach through hands-on experience and keen observation. So, let’s throw on our jackets with the grade sevens and head out for our famous February caribou program!

Students have a positive close encounter with one of our bull caribou.

Campers getting a special experience with one of our caribou bulls.

March Break

​Slowly, March comes crawling along. By this time, we’re feeling ready for the busy spring and summer seasons. We have our programs all neat and tidy, but the Preserve has turned a somber shade of winter. We’re all aching for something: A little sunlight, some warm weather, a hot cup of cocoa… or, some more students! Last year’s March Break Nature Camp hosted 10 campers, a real VIP experience.

Though we do plan and structure the days, it’s the campers who really have the final say in the day’s events. We want our campers fully engaged, so we try our best to tailor the camp to their interests. If that means spending some extra time with the caribou then we throw on an extra layer, step into the enclosure, and get a closer look at our campers’ favorite ungulates.

Kids doing outdoor experiential programming in the outdoors in Yukon.

Educator Erin Cartan taking her campers to the Gunnar Nilsson & Mickey Lammers Research Forest.

We Talk Swan

As the snow starts to melt and the sun starts to burgeon it’s a HONK, of all things, that prompts our first drive out to Swan Haven. Working with the YG Department of Environment we move our operations to Marsh Lake and start talking Swans with grade two, three, and five classes at the beginning of April.

After our education team gets a Swan Masterclass from bird biologists Jukka Jantunen and Margaret Campbell, we welcome hundreds of students to share the joy of birding with some of our favorite feathered friends. Together we tell the story of Yukon swans, look through scopes to observe their behaviours, play dress-up, and make our own mock-migration. We do all this in hopes of fostering respect and appreciation for all Yukon wildlife.

Swan Costume for Swan Haven Programming

Manager of Education and Programming, Madison Rushton, trying out our new and improved swan suit.

The Ball Gets Rolling

Though the snow on our peaks is slowly melting by early May, the snowball we call ‘Education and Programming’ is growing both in size and speed. It’s now time for our Spring Programs! Life is waking up and starting to buzz here on the Preserve. Together with the students we try to find each and every little buzz, bumble, and sign of life. Our Yukon-famous benthic macroinvertebrate studies (a.k.a. lookin’ for bugs in the pond), large scale Predator vs. Prey game, and animal charades are crowd pleasers amongst the little ones. Lots of fun and games for these students, and they haven’t the slightest clue they’re actually learning.

Once that’s all over, snow is the last thing on anyone’s mind. But, our ‘Education and Programming’ snowball is reaching its crescendo with the YWP Summer Nature Camps! It’s all hands on-deck at this point; three wildlife educators, nine weeks of camp, and nearly two hundred campers. The whirlwind that ensues is filled with a tremendous amount of fun. Fishing, barbecues, forts, flower picking, popsicles, dress-up, story time, nap-time, camp-time, and eventually, home-time are all to be expected.

At last, our ears ringing from nearly seven months of outdoor education and nature programming, we pat each other on the back and have our own well-deserved nap-time. But don’t forget, once we’re ready to open our eyes and stretch our arms, we get to do it all over again!

Students dip-netting for all the bugs and critters they can find.

Students dip-netting for all the bugs and critters they can find.


Though working with children can be exhausting it’s also extraordinarily rewarding. Moments of growth in our students fuel us educators with energy and inspiration. And the best part? We’re learning just as much from them as they do from us.

While teaching at the Preserve I often think back to my own outdoor education experiences as a child. Downtown Toronto certainly offered less opportunities than the pristine boreal, but the richness of those experiences was all the same.

Now that I think about it, I remember one particular experience at the Toronto Island Nature School. We were playing a game of Predator vs. Prey and I felt like the luckiest boy. I had the opportunity to play my favorite animal; the wolf. I ran under a bush, prepared myself, and waited eagerly for the game to start. TWEEEET went the whistle and THUMP THUMP went my feet.

“Seth! Where are your shoes?”

“Shoes?! I don’t need shoes, I’m a wolf!”

Seth Brown

Seth Brown

Visitor Services Coordinator

Passionate about the environment, art, and education, Seth has been working as an environmental educator since 2017. Off the preserve, you can find him playing in the mountains; on skis in the winter and with a paddle in the summer. Having moved to the Yukon and joined the preserve in April 2022, he’s excited to learn and explore!


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What’s That Scat?

What’s That Scat?

What’s That Scat?

4 minute read.
As we are out enjoying some of the many trails the Yukon has to offer, we often have to watch our step to make sure we’re not putting our boots in something smelly! These unexpected trail obstacles can be great indicators of whose habitat we are walking into, what they are eating, and how they are digesting it. Just like us, many animals have dynamic diets, and will eat what is available. Scat can be interesting but can also spread diseases, even to humans, so it should be looked at and not touched, especially by our furry companions.


Black bears are opportunistic omnivores who will eat whatever food they can find, including fish, fruit, meat, insects, and herbs and grasses. Grizzlies have a similar diet, but tend to favour high-energy meat and insects more than the smaller black bears. Like their diets, bear scat appearance is quite varied, and often contains fragments of their last meal, like seeds, bits of berries, or small animal bones. Wildlife Interpreter Maureen recounts seeing a landscape covered in red wine-coloured piles that were actually scat from grizzlies that had eaten a lot of cranberries!

Light brown bear scat with seeds visible.

Bears are relatives of mammalian carnivores, they have a digestive system similar to carnivores, without a cecum or extended large intestine. This limits how efficiently they can process leafy plant material and they must eat a lot if they are relying on these foods, which is common in the spring. As a result, when a bear eats a lot of plant material their scat often has a green tinge from the undigested grasses or a fibrous appearance. Typically, their scat is brown or black and tapered, though sometimes it can appear as more globular if it is loose. Grizzly scat tends to be a bit wider and larger piles than black bear scat. It can be hard to distinguish between the two, but both should make a hiker cautious of the trail ahead. Remember bear spray and noisemakers and stay bear safe!

Left to right: Older bear scat; bear scat that is darker brown in colour with grasses visible.

If you’re interested in getting involved in bear research, the Operation Ursus Research using Scat (OURS) project is aimed at estimating the Yukon grizzly and black bear populations using DNA available in bear scat. Lucile leads the study and shares the project story Bear Poo and You with YWP.


Foxes, wolves, and coyotes are more exclusively carnivorous than bears, but may occasionally eat berries and seeds. Their digestive system is similar to that of a bear, as is their scat. Wolves’ stomachs are specially adapted to hold a lot of food so that after a hunt they can get their share of the reward. Additionally, their stomach is very acidic to kill off any pathogens in the meat. It is tubular and tapered and may contain bits of bones, fur, or berries. It may be lighter, as it varies from tan to dark brown in colour. It is, however, smaller than bear scat: fox scat is about 1.25 cm in diameter, coyote scat is about 2 cm, and wolf scat is usually at least 2.5 cm in diameter.

Wolf scat with fur visible.

There will likely be much less of it as well. Foxes often defecate in obvious areas to mark their territory. The Wildlife Preserve exists as an ecosystem within a larger ecosystem and foxes are one of the many wild animals that visit. They seem to like to use the boardwalks at the front cabin to do their business!

Foxes often defecate in obvious places to mark their territory.

Left photo credit: L.Caskenette.

Feline – Lynx

Unlike generalist bears and canines, lynxes are specialists. Snowshoe hares are their primary food source, and can make up 75% of their winter diet. Meat is highly digestible, meaning that most of what is consumed can be broken down and absorbed easily. Lynx digestive systems, therefore, have shorter small intestines relative to body size and less developed caecum than canines.

Lynx scat of varying ages among grass.

Their scat is black, tubular and tapered, and does not have so much undigested material as the bears or canines. It is also very smelly. Like a house cat, they will cover their scat with dirt or snow, probably to hide their presence from nearby animals. Also like house cats, they often defecate in the same latrine over and over, which can be seen in our lynx habitat.

Lynx, like house cats, often poop in the same places every time. This is one of the latrines in the lynx habitat at the Preserve.


The Yukon has a great variety of cervids (antler bearing animals) or members of the deer family. Their diets, digestive systems, and scat have many similarities. In general, they produce uniform, dark brown or black oval-shaped pellets, which result from uniform movements of smooth muscles in the large intestine and its sphincters.

From left to right: Caribou, moose, mule deer and elk. Photo Credit: L.Caskenette & J.Paleczny.

Their diets are often high in fibrous, dry tree materials like leaves and twigs, which is why their feces forms pellets. If they are eating more grasses, in the summer, it may appear softer and more clumpy. Cervids are all ruminants which means that their stomachs have four compartments: the rumen, the reticulum, the omasum and the abomasum.  This allows for fermentation by bacteria and other processes that break down vegetation. This is part of the reason that cervid scat does not have as much undigested material as the carnivores’, despite their plant diet having less digestible material. In addition, they will regurgitate their food and chew it again, also called chewing their cud!

Left to Right: Soft caribou scat clumps together versus caribou scat in pellet form.

Deer pellets are small, about 1 cm in diameter, and are left in piles of many pellets. They defecate an average of 13 times per day! Elk scat is similar but 1-1.5 cm in diameter, and moose scat is even larger at 1.5-2 cm in diameter. Deer and elk pellets are rounder than moose pellets.

Softer deer scat often clumps together as seen here.

Moose are more strictly browsers, that eat only tree materials, so mostly their pellets are harder. Caribou scat appears somewhat more rough than deer or moose scat. It is often in harder pellet form in the winter when they eat a lot of lichens and sedges. In the summer, when their diet switches to grasses and vegetation with a high moisture content, their scat often forms larger soft clumps.

Moose scat in pellet form, darker brown because it’s older.


There are also a wide variety of bovids (horn bearing animals) in the Yukon. Our mountain sheep, mountain goats, muskox, and bison are all ruminants, just like the cervids. They are all herbivores who eat a variety of grasses, sedges, seedlings, and leaves.

Left to Right: Muskox, bison, mountain goat, thinhorn sheep. Photo Credit: L. Caskenette

Muskox, mountain goats, and thinhorn mountain sheep also form pellet scat, even when their diets consist largely of grass. That’s because their digestive tracts are highly evolved to reabsorb as much water as possible, likely an adaptation to their arid alpine (goats and sheep) and tundra (muskox) habitats.

Sheep scat forms pellets.

Goats have varied diets that includes browse, shrubs, lichens, grasses, and even trees. Their alpine foraging sites may be sparse, which doesn’t allow them to be picky eaters. Muskoxen eat grasses, forbs (herbaceous flowering plants), and willows, which they often have to dig out from the frozen arctic ground by smashing the permafrost with their heads and pawing the ice pieces out of the way. Mountain sheep eat mostly grasses and some other low growing sedges.

Muskox scat.

Bison scat is distinct from all the other ruminants mentioned above, because it forms an indistinct pile. Their diet is also primarily grasses and other low-lying herbaceous plants, but they may eat some willows and twigs. Grasses would make their scat more loose, but we’re taking suggestions for what makes their scat so different from the other grass-loving bovids!

Bison patty.

Hopefully after hearing all of these scat facts you can see scat as more than just something gross to be avoided on the side of the trail. It can tell you who’s habitat you are in, but also what they have been eating. It is interesting to watch it change throughout the season. Of course biologists may be able to find out way more about an animal through their scat, for instance genetic samples or presence of pathogens. There is so much to learn from the scat around us!
Although all the different scat we explored above is only a small number of animals, all species do it and we encourage you to:

1. Explore other species scat/defecation/poop – whatever you want to call it!

2. Pack out yours and your furry companions (yours domestic canines) poo in the backcountry and wilderness places you visit!

3. Sing the Scat Rap Song!  

It starts with an S and it ends with a T
It comes out of you
and it comes out of me
I know what you’re thinking
But don’t call it that
Let’s be scientific, and call it SCAT
It was a piece of scat

You can find it on the ground
It’s usually colored brown
It is shaped in a mound
It is a piece of scat

You can smell it with your nose
It’s gonna decompose
It’s where the fungus grows
It is a piece of scat

Birds flying through the air
Look out! Beware!
It landed in your hair
It was a piece of scat

I was hiking through the fog
When I saw a big log
It came from a dog
It was a piece of scat

I was tired of TV
I was checking out the trees
I could smell it on the breeze
It was a piece of scat

I know it’s kind of gory
But it’s a true story
It marks territory
It is a piece of scat

I picked up a chicken
And something was drippin’
It wasn’t finger-lickin’
It was a piece of scat

A squirrel ate a nut
Digested in its gut
It came out of its butt
It was a piece of scat

If you park your car
By the woods or a field
You might find something on your windshield
Full of berries
Both purple and white
You just got bombed by a bird in flight
It was a piece of scat

Photo Credit: Sophia Slater or as otherwise credited.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Caribou (Rangifer tarandus granti) sign. ADFG. 

Blood, D.A. Mountain sheep. Hinterlands Who’s Who. 

Blood, D.A. (2000). Mountain Goat in British Columbia. British Columbia Ministry of Environment Land and Parks.

Bosch, G., Hagen-Plantinga, E., & Hendriks, W. (2015). Dietary nutrient profiles of wild wolves: Insights for optimal dog nutrition? British Journal of Nutrition, 113(S1), S40-S54. doi:10.1017/S0007114514002311

Keith, L.B. Canada lynx. Hinterland’s Who’s Who. 

Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center (2018, June 25). What scat can tell you about your wildlife neighbors. CSERC

Costello, C.M., Cain, S.L., Pils, S., Frattaroli, L., Haroldson, M.A., & van Manen, F.T. (2016). Diet and macronutrient optimization in wild Ursids: A comparison of grizzly bears with sympatric and allopatric black bears. PLoS ONE, 11(5).

Gray, D.R. Muskox. Hinterland’s Who’s Who. 

Hatch, K., Roeder, B., Buckman, R., Gale, B., Bunnell, S., Eggett, D., Auger, J., Felicetti, L., & Hilderbrand, G. (2011). Isotopic and gross fecal analysis of American black bear scats. Ursus, 22(2), 133–140. 

Howard, W.T., Hutjens, M., Kilmer, L., Linn, A., Otterby, D., & Shaver, R. (2021). The ruminant digestive system. University of Minnesota Extension

Winand, C.J. (2008, September). Deer Pelletology. Buckmasters Magazine

Sophia Slater

Sophia Slater

Wildlife Interpreter & Animal Care Assistant

Sophia is one of the Interpretive Wildlife Guides and animal care assistants at the Preserve. She is new to the Yukon and moved here from Ontario, where she just graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Nipissing University. Hiking mountains is her newfound passion while she’s here, and she’s hoping to summit as many as she can this summer. At the preserve, she loves getting to talk to and learn from guests who come from all over the Yukon and beyond about their experiences with wildlife.

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Love for the Lynx

Love for the Lynx

Love for the Lynx

This story was originally published February 13, 2021 in the e-blast newsletter to Yukon Wildlife Preserve’s membership.

Are you a member but don’t receive these email Newsletters?  Contact us at info@yukonwildlife.ca to update your email preferences.

While the ungulates have already gone through their languages of love the carnivores are just getting started!

It’s a great time to hear the courtship calls from the lynx, arctic fox and red foxes. While the two species of foxes are the same gender (red foxes – males, arctic foxes – females), our lynx group consists of a male and two females and all three lynx will remain in the habitat together this season.

In past years we have separated the male to eliminate breeding potential – an important practice to manage our animal collection and animal numbers. This year however the lynx will be left together to let nature take its course!

Our 3-legged male has never bred before nor has our younger female, who turns 7 this spring, so we do not have any history to give indication of sexual success. Our other female, who is now 13 years old, has successfully reared offspring in her younger days – most recently in 2014. If breeding is successful we could expect kittens in mid – late May. YWP collection growth and stability is a consideration for breeding given the age of our male, also 13 years. Further to that, BC Wildlife Park in Kamloops, a CAZA accredited facility, will also look to add to their population by accepting a litter of siblings. This potential breeding will be an important contribution to lynx genetics and the Species Survival Plan given how unique (completely unrepresented actually), his genetics are among captive populations.

It’s all up to the animals and only time will tell if these individuals are successful.

Lynx at Yukon Wildlife Preserve L to R:  3-legged male circa 2018 and kitten circa 2014.

All Photos credit:  Jake Paleczny

Lindsay Caskenette

Lindsay Caskenette

Manager of Visitor Services

Lindsay joined the Wildlife Preserve team March 2014. Originally from Ontario, she came to the Yukon in search of new adventures and new career challenges. Lindsay holds a degree in Environmental Studies with honours from Wilfrid Laurier University and brings with her a strong passion to share what nature, animals and the environment can teach us.


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Leaps and Bounds “Winter is Here”-Lynx

Leaps and Bounds “Winter is Here”-Lynx

Leaps and Bounds “Winter is Here”-Lynx

9 minute read – “Winter Is Here” series continues with the elusive enigma – Lynx!

I, for one, love winter. What a unique time of year it is to be able to get outside in the short but cherished sunlight hours or total darkness for a hike, ski, or skate, then get inside and warm up by a fire. Of course Yukon’s wildlife call the outdoors their home but don’t worry they are just fine outside.

With those view-blocking leaves off the trees and the snow piled high, the Preserve’s most elusive resident – the lynx, becomes ever so slightly easier to spot in their habitat.

The lynx is one of Yukon’s only cat species other than the even more secretive cougar.1Government of Yukon. 2021. Cougar. https://yukon.ca/en/cougar  Lynx can be found in the boreal forest right across Yukon, Alaska, and still occupy roughly 95% of their historic range in Canada.2Poole, K.G. 2003. A review of the Canada lynx, lynx canadensis, in Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist 117(3): 360-376.  Here in the subarctic boreal forest lynx have adapted to thrive in even the coldest, harshest winters Yukon could throw at them, while also keeping up with their favourite prey: the snowshoe hare.

Lynx almost exclusively prey on snowshoe hares during the winter months, as hares make up anywhere from 75-90% of a lynx’s diet on average.3Ivan, J.S., & Shenk, T.M. 2016. Winter diet and hunting success of Canada lynx in Colorado. The Journal of Wildlife Management 80(6): 1049-1058.In the summer and when hare populations are low, lynx will turn to other small animals like red squirrels, mice, and ptarmigan4Poole, K.G. 2003. A review of the Canada lynx, lynx canadensis, in Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist 117(3): 360-376., but those hares are by far the preferred ones to catch. So much so that the number of lynx there are in an area depends on the number of hares.5Poole, K.G. 2003. A review of the Canada lynx, lynx canadensis, in Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist 117(3): 360-376. This is one of the most well recorded examples of a predator-prey interaction dating back to the mid-1800’s.6MacLulich, D.A. 1937. Fluctuations in the numbers of the varying hare (Lepus americanus). University of Toronto Studies Biological Series 43. University of Toronto Press, Toronto

Figure 1. Population cycles of lynx and snowshoe hare over a 90-year period from the fur-trapping records of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Figure based on data from MacLulich (1937) and Elton and Nicholson (1942)

Snowshoe hare populations are cyclic: they peak about every ten years then crash shortly thereafter. Lynx follow this pattern lagging about 1-2 years behind the hares.74. Boutin, S., et al. 1995. Population changes of the vertebrate community during a snowshoe hare cycle in Canada’s boreal forest. Oikox 74: 69-80. 8MacLulich, D.A. 1937. Fluctuations in the numbers of the varying hare (Lepus americanus). University of Toronto Studies Biological Series 43. University of Toronto Press, Toronto  Hares are rich in nutrients providing lynx with the necessary energy and fat reserves needed to survive the long, cold winters. When hare populations are booming, lynx have better survival rates and females can support more kittens to adulthood. An abundance of food and high reproduction rates increases the lynx’s population density to 30-45 lynx/100 km2 , but once the hare numbers decline, that lynx population density drops down to just 2 lynx/100 km2 in the same region.9Poole, K.G. 2003. A review of the Canada lynx, lynx canadensis, in Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist 117(3): 360-376.

To keep up with the snowshoe hare – a specialist of the subarctic and arctic ecoregions, lynx have to survive and thrive alongside them in these colder lands.

Another great thing about winter is that the snow is a great record keeper of all the different critters that have wandered through an area. Keep an eye out for rounded paw prints indicative of the lynx. Compared to their body size, lynx have huge paws and can spread their fur-covered toes apart making the surface area even larger. Just like a pair of snowshoes on our feet, these giant paws help the lynx walk on top of packed snow. Along with their long legs these cats can wade through soft, deep snow with ease and use their larger back legs to help power big leaps either up trees or when bounding to catch up to a hare.10Murray, D.L., & Boutin, S. 1991. The influence of snow on lynx and coyote movements: does morphology affect behavior? Oecologia 88(4): 463-469.

Lynx can be found across Yukon in the boreal forest, but the slight difference of how open or dense that forest is will change how the lynx behaves while hunting. If lynx are in more open areas with less vegetation on the ground to hide in, their tactic is to chase hares. However, this method is not very successful since lynx cannot keep pace with hares over long distances.11Murray, D.L., Boutin, S., O’Donoghue, M., & Nams, V.O. 1995. Hunting behaviour of a sympatric felid and canid in relation to vegetation cover. Animal Behavior 50: 1203-1210.  More often lynx are ambush hunters, lying in wait in bed-sites along well-used hare trails until the prey comes close.12Poole, K.G. 2003. A review of the Canada lynx, lynx canadensis, in Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist 117(3): 360-376. To be successful, lynx prefer old growth forests with an abundance of spruce and pine cover along with fallen trees and dense vegetation to hide in.13Murray, D.L., Boutin, S., O’Donoghue, M., & Nams, V.O. 1995. Hunting behaviour of a sympatric felid and canid in relation to vegetation cover. Animal Behavior 50: 1203-1210. This tactic of staying still and ambushing unsuspecting prey not only provides more energy rich food for the lynx, it also allows them to conserve precious energy needed to keep their body temperatures warm during the winter.

When you’re staying still, having a warm coat on also helps you to retain heat against the cold winter air. Lynx have a very thick winter coat made up of a fluffy underfur that traps air against the skin creating an insulating barrier. The soft underfur is covered in coarse guard hairs that function as a waterproofing layer preventing snow and ice from reaching the skin underneath, just like how our waterproof, puffy winter coats function. Lynx’s winter coats are a light grey colour, mottled with those guard hairs that break up the cat’s outline allowing them to blend in to the grey and white forest background. In contrast, the summer coat is shorter with more reddish brown in colour; again allowing the cats to sneak around the forest undetected.14Vaughan, T.A., Ryan, J.M., & Czaplewski, N.J. (2015). Mammalogy. (6th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Lynx are considered to be almost entirely solitary animals especially in the heart of winter after that year’s kittens have dispersed from the den. Adult lynx usually only pair up for a brief time in late February or March for the breeding season then separate again.15Poole, K.G. 2003. A review of the Canada lynx, lynx canadensis, in Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist 117(3): 360-376. However, new radio-collar data out of Kluane National Park shows lynx pairing up and eating the same kill together; behaviours that indicate these cats may be more social than previously thought, at least in the Kluane region.16Morin, P. (2020, December 29). Not so solitary: Lynx links surprise scientists. Retrieved from: cbc.ca/news/canada/north/not-solitary-lynx-links-surprise-scientists-1.5854543. This is fascinating new data that right now really leaves us with more questions than answers. Have lynx always been more social than we thought and we just didn’t notice or is this new behaviour in response to change? Currently, we are in a period of low snowshoe hare populations and declining lynx numbers17Krebs., C.J., et al. (2020). The Community Ecological Monitoring Program annual data report 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.zoology.ubc.ca/~krebs/downloads/kluane_annual_report_2019.pdf. so perhaps this is evidence of cooperation either between relatives like parents and offspring or siblings, or between unrelated individuals in order to survive.18Morin, P. (2020, December 29). Not so solitary: Lynx links surprise scientists. Retrieved from: cbc.ca/news/canada/north/not-solitary-lynx-links-surprise-scientists-1.5854543.

 Lynx are a truly remarkable species and being so elusive, we continue to uncover new things about them and their behaviour.

Winter continues on here in the Yukon but it really is the best season to bundle up and get outside for your chance to spot a lynx sneaking through the bare trees or even just their round, furry prints travelling on top of the snow. If you are lucky enough to spot a lynx either out in the wild or right here at the Preserve (there are three of them) take note of their winter adaptations: large paws, long legs, thick fur coat covering their entire body, and stealthy behaviour; all traits that make them such successful felines of the north!

All Lynx photos credit to L. Caskenette

Rebecca Carter

Rebecca Carter

Visitor Services Coordinator

Rebecca joined the Wildlife Preserve in the summer of 2020 after moving from Manitoba to the beautiful and wild Yukon. Rebecca earned a degree in Biology with honours from the University of Winnipeg studying behaviour in mule deer (one of her top 20 favourite animals.. it’s hard to choose!). She loves connecting with others through nature and sharing stories and knowledge about the animals at the preserve with visitors.


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A Convocation of Eagles

A Convocation of Eagles

A Convocation of Eagles

What do the dates; August 7th, September 21st, and October 20th have in common?  Well, each of these days the Yukon Wildlife Preserve’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre received a new patient, with each those being an eagle. It started with the Golden Eagles arrival from Watson Lake, followed by a Bald Eagle from Jake’s Corner, and another Bald Eagle from Mayo.  While an arrival of an animal, into the centre for care by the team at the Preserve, isn’t distinctive; it is unusual to receive an influx of eagles in the fall.

Seen from left to right is the Golden Eagle, the younger Bald Eagle with scapular injury from Jake’s Corner, and the older Bald Eagle with carpal infection from Mayo.

Over the years, the Rehabilitation Centre has admitted many eagles – both golden and bald. Some of these occasions have occurred to eaglets, some adults. Some of these have been due to injury to the individual – like from a nest blowing over in strong winds (they’re nests are built over years and with time can weigh hundreds of pounds, which for our small northern trees can sometimes be just too much to support).1https://www.nationaleaglecenter.org/eagle-nesting-young/ Often times, we do not know the circumstances around an animals ailment but can gain insight from x-rays as to why an animal might be behaving differently than we might expect – like the successful juvenile bald eagle rehabilitation from summer 2020. A common thread for many of these eagles is admittance timing – usually in the Spring and Summer. 
Several months have passed since the three birds Fall time admittance. This time has allowed each eagle recovery, to some degree but there’s much road ahead still for them each. We’ll start first with the younger, (white with brown head) Bald Eagle from Jake’s Corner.  A fracture to the scapular caused the animal to be flightless in the wild. The injury has healed. The wing was wrapped for 2 months to immobilize the wing but this does cause muscle atrophy – just like in humans who are casted following a bone break. The eagle was contained in a small aviary to help reduce its movements to maintain fracture alignment and eventual bone fusion.
Once this stage of recovery was met, the eagle was moved into the large aviary. This is an important phase of the recovery process for the bird –  movement and flight tests. This individual can fly, and will spend the rest of the winter building up flight muscles in the aviary to support its probable return to the wild in the spring!
The older (full white head) Bald Eagle who suffered from severe chronic infection of the right carpal joint was initially treated with a small hope that even though the integrity of the joint was compromised the eagle might still be able to fly well enough and survive in the wild after the infection was controlled and the wing healed. However, based on most current radiographic imaging and physical exam, done by Dr. Maria Hallock and the Animal Care team, the prognosis is poor. While the infection is cleared and the joint has healed, its integrity is compromised – this will prevent the eagle from being able to fly uninhibited. Observations of the animal in the large aviary has seen it able to gain lift up to 6 feet and fly off the perch within the aviary but unable to maintain latitude for more than 20 feet. 
The Preserve will continue to care for this individaul through the remainder of the winter. We will continue to monitor and observe its behaviour.
Finally, the Golden Eagle has had the longest and most challenging recovery of the three. While we are happy to report that the left foot has recovered from the infection due to porcupine quills; the right foot is severely compromised due to the infection. This has resulted in multiple bone dissolution and loss of the skeletal and ligamentous integrity of the foot and consequently loss of its function. The bird can perch but cannot grasp effectively with the right foot. The bird still has a long way to its full recovery. At this time it does not look probable for the bird to be released back into the wild sucessfully due to this loss of functionality in the foot – an important tool for a bird of bird such as this to capture its food to survive.
The x-ray image of the Golden Eagle’s feet shows significantly compromised structure between the right and the left. The left foot was imaged with the banadaging on his feet still. The Golden Eagle is observed to be perching, and with the other birds, more and more. This is a postive progression from when he was often observed resting on stomache and on the ground, rathern than higher perch.
Each of these birds are on their own path to recovery. The Preserve continues to provide care through, mostly now, feeding and observation. These birds eat a lot! If you are able to support the ongoing care of these animals please consider donating to the Wildlife Rehabiliation and Resaearch Centre Fund.

While we progress through winter and meet spring the Preserve’s Animal Care team will reevaluate each individual and their release back to the wild or the alternative. The alternatives could include remaining at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve to live out their life and offer education and an opportunity to personally connect with such a magnificent creature. This will be a significant investment, up to a 25 year commitment, given the birds average lifespan and food requirements, however that the Preserve may not be able to provide this given the expenses. Another alternative may be to place them in another animal care facility or CAZA accredited institution.  Time will tell, to be continued . . .

Photo credits:  L. Caskenette
Lindsay Caskenette

Lindsay Caskenette

Manager of Visitor Services

Lindsay joined the Wildlife Preserve team March 2014. Originally from Ontario, she came to the Yukon in search of new adventures and new career challenges. Lindsay holds a degree in Environmental Studies with honours from Wilfrid Laurier University and brings with her a strong passion to share what nature, animals and the environment can teach us.


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