North Photos

Lynx kittens turn Alaska photographer's deck 'into a romper room'

'I look closer, and... my gosh! Their feet are about the size of their head!'

Priscilla Hwang - CBC News

October 01, 2017

Lynx kittens and their mother look at Tim Newton who says his SLR camera's shutter noises piqued their curiosity, on Sept. 19. (Submitted by Tim Newton)

Tim Newton got out of bed, slipped into his Crocs and trudged over to his window.

It was just before dawn on a Tuesday, when something woke him up.

ADVERTISEMENT

That wasn't unusual. His home — located near a state park in the outskirts of Anchorage, Alaska — has attracted quite a few furry creatures over the years from moose to bulls. Once, he was woken up by a black bear on his deck.

"I heard this patter of feet racing around on the deck. I thought, 'Well, that isn't a bear. What the heck is that?'" Newton recalled.

The sound was like "huge pads sticking to the deck like Velcro," he said.

Wrapped in his favourite full-length, grey fleece robe, Newton opened the window shade "just a crack."

Oh, just cats, he thought.

Tim Newton said he initially thought the kittens were domestic cats. (Submitted by Tim Newton)

Newton said he was just about to shoo the nuisance away, when he noticed little tufts of hair on their ears.

That's when it dawned on him.

"Then, I look closer, and... my gosh! Their feet are about the size of their head," he said. "Talk about serendipity!"

And thus began Newton's nearly hour-long encounter with seven lynx kittens and their mother — "a rare privilege," he said.

Kittens pouncing, racing, chasing

Newton, an engineer whose hobby is landscape photography, said he rushed over and grabbed his camera.

He went to another window with a better view and was surprised to find the lynx kittens still playing on his deck. Newton said he's had only a handful of lynx sightings in his lifetime, and most of them were for less than five seconds.

A lynx kitten crouching on Tim Newton's deck last month. (Submitted by Tim Newton)

"They're very elusive, and they don't seem to stick around," he said. "So I was just thrilled they were still there."

Newton said the kittens were pouncing, crouching, stalking each other, racing and chasing one another.

After he snapped some 20 photos, Newton said they disappeared.

Lynx kittens playing on Tim Newton's deck on Sept. 19. (Submitted by Tim Newton)

"I looked around the trees and bushes, and, nope, they were nowhere to be seen," said Newton.

"I was sure that was the last of it."

'Just like Jurassic Park'

But as he went to download his photos onto his computer, Newton said he heard a sound that stopped him in his tracks.

"I heard the mama," he said. "She let out two mews."

He spotted the mother, camouflaged behind some bushes in his yard.

The mother lynx was camouflaged behind bushes when Newton spotted her. (Submitted by Tim Newton)

Then, he saw the tall grass starting to stir.

"I swear it was just like Jurassic Park," said Newton, laughing. "Velociraptors come rustling through the tall grass — it was just exactly like that."

Then the kittens and the mother made their way back onto his deck, to Newton's delight.

Lynx kittens playing in Tim Newton's backyard. (Submitted by Tim Newton)

Clicking away with his not-so-silent SLR camera, the lynx kittens began to, one by one, look towards Newton, who was standing behind a screen door.

"My grey hair and beard [are a] perfect match for the bathrobe. Makes me look like a tall, grey triangle," said Newton, crediting his elusive outfit for his longest record encounter with lynx.

"For the next half hour, the kittens turned my deck into a romper room," he said.

"I've concluded that lynx spend one per cent of their time chasing rabbits and 99 per cent of their time chasing their siblings."

'For the next half hour, the kittens turned my deck into a romper room,' said Tim Newton. (Submitted by Tim Newton)

At one point, Newton said he was able to step outside to take some close-ups, standing about 1.5 metres away from the kittens. Only when he removed the camera away from his face, did the kittens run away.

"He saw my eyes, and when he did, just had this look of vast horror come over his face, and he just flew," said Newton, adding that was his biggest mistake.

Tim Newton said a lynx kitten had a 'look of vast horror come over his face' when he made eye contact with it. (Submitted by Tim Newton)

Lynx are known to be independent, solitary animals that tend to avoid humans. They typically hunt at night so are rarely seen.

Newton said his encounter was "totally unexpected," adding that he was surprised to witness this level of playfulness from lynx.

"Lynx have a mystique about them," he said. "I feel really lucky."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Priscilla Hwang

Priscilla Hwang brings you offbeat and exclusive stories from current affairs. She's worked as a reporter and with CBC's investigative unit. Reach her @prisksh.

Start the day smarter
Get the CBC News Morning Brief, the essential news you need delivered to your inbox