3-legged lynx takes the stage at Whitehorse preserve

After eight years of living behind the scenes at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, the three-legged lynx will now be greeting visitors.

After years spent behind the scenes at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, this cat is ready to greet the crowd

The lynx has lived at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve for about 8 years, but now occupies an enclosure that's visible to the public. (Jake Paleczny)

His public profile is growing, but so far this cat remains nameless.

"It's funny — some animals have names that stick and in this case, not quite the same way," said Jake Paleczny, acting executive director of the Yukon Wildlife Preserve.

The lynx has just been moved into a new enclosure, meaning that after eight years of living mostly behind the scenes, he'll now be seen by visitors to the preserve.

And he's not just missing a name — years ago, he lost a leg.

The lynx amputee settling in to his new environment. (Jake Paleczny)

Paleczny doesn't know all the details, but said the animal "had an unfortunate accident as part of a research project that was happening in Alberta."

"They'd done the amputation because they were unable to save the leg."

The preserve often takes in injured or orphaned animals that wouldn't likely survive long in the wild. That's what happened with this lynx.

"He would have had a pretty tough time in the wild, especially when you get into deep snow and you're missing a quarter of the flotation you're used to," Paleczny says.

Still, the animal is surprisingly agile.

"He gets around amazingly well, even climbing trees and the whole bit."

The three-legged lynx was moved into the new enclosure to take the place of another male lynx that died last winter at the ripe old age of 20 — for a cat, that is. The lynx had to wait for the vacancy because the space was not big enough for two males.

"When you get a male and a female, and then you put another male into the mix…" Paleczny said, laughing.

Jake Paleczny is the acting executive director of the Yukon Wildlife Preserve in Whitehorse. (Submitted by Jake Paleczny)

Destined for bigger things

The three-legged lynx won't just be a crowd-pleaser at the preserve, either. He's destined for bigger things.

His genes will be preserved as part of an international "species survival plan" program, because, according to Paleczny, "he has genetics that aren't represented in captive populations in North America."

A team of geneticists at Toronto's Sick Kids Hospital will try to sequence the genome of a Canadian lynx — using a sample from this animal amputee.

"If they are successful, he will be the first lynx to be sequenced," Paleczny said. 

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