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A Cautionary Tail

This story is one of the winners for our fieldwork story contest of 2017.

by Lisa Bidinosti

Squirrels, lynx, telemetry oh my! This is a tale of girl who ventured
along a yellow brick road…well not exactly, more like a snow-covered trail in
the northern boreal forest.

I was tracking squirrels armed with my telemetry gear, tuning into each squirrel’s
collar frequency to pinpoint their location in order to FOCAL them.  Say what?  FOCAL – short for behavioural observation
(field jargon). Each day I would take to the paths of the study grid butted
against the Alaskan Highway in the southern Yukon to conduct my FOCALS, and
check my squirrel traps.

It was March 23rd, a day much like the previous 22 (since my
arrival in the north) where I would wake, eat breakfast, FOCAL, eat lunch, FOCAL,
eat dinner… As I was recording my observations of a wonderful squirrel, C9, I
spotted a set of very long fury legs moving through the trees. The rest of the
body was obscured by the trees and my first instincts were “WOLF” … “LONE WOLF”
… “LONE WOLF=NOT GREAT”, but just as my flight response was about to kick in I
thought, “LYNX!”.  I bent down to see if
I could get a better glimpse of the animal and, sure enough, it was indeed a
lynx.  It turned and looked at me without
missing a beat as it carried on in a blasé fashion.  “Cool! I just saw a lynx! What an experience,”
I thought to myself as I carried on to my next squirrel, D7.  

D7 was a gregarious yet obstinate squirrel who consistently resisted all
tasty temptations in order to avoid being caught in the trap and, always
defiantly, would perch upon the top of it.
As I approached D7’s loc (more field jargon, short for location) I
nearly ran into the back end of the lynx, crouched down eating something!  Whoa! I backed off a bit and let the big cat finish
eating. As it got up it, again, turned and looked at me with the same blasé manner
and trotted off.  

Now this was truly an amazing experience – I was able to observe such a
gorgeous creature just feet away having a snack. Snack? Oh, what was that lynx
eating by the way?  I went to where it
had been crouched down and, OH BOY, there in perfect placement lay a squirrel
tail and a radio collar.  THE LYNX ATE MY
SQUIRREL! It was the demise of D7.

As frustrating as it was to be outwitted by a squirrel day after day, I
admired this little fellow’s savvy, but perhaps on this day D7 should have just
gone in the trap.


Lisa Bidinosti was born and raised in Manitoba and obtained her Bachelor of Science (major: zoology) there. After taking some time to travel and work she went back to school and earned her Masters in conservation biology – a joint program between Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand and University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. She has been fortunate enough to live in some amazing places and work with some amazing wildlife. For the last 5 years she has called Montreal home, while working in the Department of Natural Resources at McGill University.

Post date: January 27, 2018


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