It's called the "grey ghost of the north" for good reason: the Canada lynx, a creature built for stealth, is not easy to spot. But for one Parks Canada employee, last week brought a bumper cat sighting. 

In her line of work, Roberta Tesar is used to seeing the occasional elusive lynx, but even she was surprised to see a family of five playfully ambling along a dirt road in Manitoba's Riding Mountain National Park. The mother cat made an appearance first, before her four kittens came into view. 

"[They were] so playful," Tesar told CBS News. "It's a pretty cool sight to see." These mostly nocturnal forest hunters are usually very good at avoiding human company, so Tesar's encounter was a rare treat.  

While adult male lynx are mostly solitary, females and kittens stay together until the next mating season comes around. The felines are easily identified by their long ear tufts and the big, furry "snow shoes" that allow the animals to cross wintry terrain. 

While the cats are fairly common across Canada, populations in some parts of the country are considered endangered, and across the border in the US, the lynx is listed as "Threatened" under the US Endangered Species Act. These specialised hunters depend on large tracts of unique forest habitat, deep snow and a steady supply of snowshoe hares (their prey of choice) – all of which are now at risk due to climate change.


Top header image: Ricardo Zappala, Flickr