When Chris Paulson heard a commotion coming from his chicken coop on Sunday, his first thought was that maybe one of them had laid an egg. The Burns Lake, B.C., farm owner said they tend to announce an arrival, although this time sounded more urgent, so he went to check on them.
“They were all flying around, and I couldn’t see anything,” he said in a phone interview with CTV News.
Paulson stuck his head in the coop and that’s when he saw a Canada lynx, unmistakable with its black, tufted ear tips, massive paws, and thick grey fur — a fearsome carnivore that had clearly seen an opportunity for an easy meal and invaded the henhouse. It had already killed two of them and was going for more.
“So I jump in there and try to shoo him out,” Paulson said. “He was totally not aggressive towards me, but really focussed on catching some more chickens.”
The lynx wound up backed into a corner, refusing to leave, so without thinking much about it, Paulson grabbed it by the scruff of its neck and hauled it out and away from the coop.
“Just like a mother cat would,” Paulson said.
But then he did something that has the internet abuzz.
He took out his cellphone, turned the lens on both himself and the lynx in his hand, and started recording.
Seeing an opportunity for a teachable moment he took the lynx back to the coop.
In the video, which Paulson says he began recording on his phone to show his two daughters, and later posted to Facebook, he gently scolds the scowling, growling animal — the telltale feathers still protruding from its mouth.
“Let’s go see the damage you did, buddy,” Paulson explains patiently. “ Not good, is it? No.”
The camera angle pans to the remnants of the unfortunate bird, it’s coop-mates flapping and squawking at the reappearance of the big cat.
“See how upset you made everyone? That’s two of our new chickens,” Paulson tells the limp and dangling creature. It is unclear if the message got through, although he said it was all meant to be tongue-in-cheek.
At that point Paulson realized he needed to get the animal to an area he could release it safely. So he placed it in a dog kennel and drove it off his property and set it free, a mistake he regrets.
“In hindsight, what we did was wrong,” Paulson said. “We shouldn’t have relocated him.”
In fact, Paulson shouldn’t have interacted with the animal in the way he did at all, according to Sgt. Ron LeBlanc of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, whose office investigated the incident.
“It’s not something we’d advise the public to do, for a couple reasons,” he said in a phone interview with CTV News. “One, you could get yourself hurt pretty bad. And second, it’s also illegal.”
While the Canadian lynx is not known to attack humans — in fact, it would rather avoid us completely — it has very sharp teeth and claws, and formidable survival skills.
“We’re just glad this incident didn’t end in a different way,” LeBlanc said. “Because it certainly could have.”
Paulson’s family has owned his property for about 100 years. He’s used to wildlife using his backyard as a freeway without incident, relying on his German shepherd dog to warn animals away. But the dog was on a walk with his daughters Sunday, otherwise he believes the lynx would not have approached his outbuildings at all.
B.C. Conservation has closed the file after advising Paulson on what to do in future should he encounter wildlife on his property, and Paulson will be securing his livestock more carefully going forward.
He goes on to add his respect and appreciation for the people and organizations, like B.C. Conservation, that deal successfully with wildlife safety, relocation, and conflict every day.
And while he doubts he’ll ever have the opportunity to get that close up and personal with another wild cat again, his lynx-schooling days are over.
WHO LEARNED THE BIGGER LESSON? The first clue was the feather in his mouth. The second was his growl. As for Chris Paulson, you might call him the “Lynx Lecturer.” (Obvious) disclaimer: not all his chickens made it. Full story tonight @CTVVancouver (Video from Chris Paulson) pic.twitter.com/yS2TwgJ7y9
— David Molko (@molkoreports) February 24, 2021