Big cat sightings on rise in Cape Breton
The Natural Resources Department is reporting an unusually high number of large cat sightings in central and western Cape Breton.
The department believes most are lynx, though some may be bobcats.
Two weeks ago, Kate Oland was driving near her home in Middle River when she saw a lynx on the snowbank beside the road.
"It was definitely glossy and shiny and healthy looking. Very beautiful, very majestic. I had to slow the car right down and I was able to follow it for quite a ways down the road," Oland said.
"It was such a sunny day and it was against the white snow, with the sunlight filtering through its whiskers and everything, when it turned to look at me. It was just a beautiful, beautiful glimpse. I wished I had a camera."
Oland said the lynx looked at her and then calmly trotted away.
Bruce Murphy, a wildlife technologist with Natural Resources in Whycocomagh, said that in the past month sightings have been reported from Port Hawkesbury to Margaree.
Murphy believes the large cats are looking for food.
He said they likely have left their normal territory because of heavy snow in the Cape Breton Highlands, and the declining population of snowshoe hares, which are a mainstay in their diet.
It's also breeding season, Murphy said, so many of the cats may be searching for a mate
"You don't approach the animal in any way — give them their space and hopefully the animal will return to the wild," he said.
"But, you know, if the animal appears to be injured in any way, emaciated, contact the local DNR office and someone will be there to assist."
Because bobcats are extremely shy of humans, Murphy believes most of the sightings have been of lynx. He said lynx have longer legs, larger paws and ear tufts.
Murphy says the cats are not dangerous but if people don't want them around, they should hide away possible food sources.