Alaska's lynx tend to keep to themselves, but six of the tuft-eared cats just made an impressive appearance on the outskirts of Anchorage.

Local resident Jason Rohwer and his son were about to head out for a day of sledding when they spotted a furry feline in the trees. It wasn't until the animal dashed into the open, however, that the action really kicked off: the cat had company, and this chain of lynx was in hot pursuit of prey.

Snowshoe hares like this one make up the bulk of lynx diets, so it's no surprise that (contrary to some reports) the white hopper couldn't evade the hunting party.

"The lynx did actually get the hare," clarifies Rohwer. "We watched them eat it for a little while, as they didn't seem to mind us being within a 20-30 feet distance. It was fun to watch them hang out while each one took a turn eating what it wanted. One of them climbed a nearby birch tree."

All the lynx in this group might look about the same size, but they are likely a family: a mother and her young. Sightings like this are rare, and it seems the Rohwer family has been luckier than most: they suspect this isn't the first time they've spotted the cats.

"It was pretty exciting to see the group in action," he says. "Earlier this summer we saw a mother and five small kittens. A different son of mine chanced upon them in their den when they were very young, and thought they were foxes."

It's entirely possible that this was the same squad. Lynx youngsters typically stay with mom for about a year, and when prey is abundant, a single family may keep a home range as small as five square miles. 

"I was fairly certain we were safe and didn't really feel threatened," says Rohwer. "I didn't catch any footage of them just hanging around, but they acted a lot like house cats."

These so-called "ghosts of the North" typically avoid contact with humans, and attacks are extremely rare (most reported incidents have involved animals kept as pets). That said, the cats do have formidable claws, and mother lynx in particular are wary of any perceived threat to their young. The best course of action during an encounter is to observe from a respectful distance – just as Rohwer did here.

After about ten minutes, the arrival of other passersby with dogs in tow prompted the lynx to move along – but not without their hard-earned meal. 

"They left part of the head," recalls Rohwer. "It was fascinating to see one of them come back [shortly after] to find it; it made me realise that despite having the whole carcass, at least one of them remembered the piece left behind." 

__

Top header image: Mathias Appel/Flickr