First Ever All-Black Canada Lynx Captured on Camera in the Yukon

A wildlife biologist recorded the first-of-its-kind video in a residential area near Whitehorse
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first ever black lynx spotted
The first recorded image of an all-black lynx. Thomas S. Jung / YouTube

An all-black Canada lynx was spotted and caught on camera two summers ago. It’s the first ever documentation of a melanistic lynx, according to a new report published in the scientific journal Mammalia. That report was written by Thomas S. Jung, a wildlife biologist and researcher who captured the footage with his cellphone near the town of Whitehorse in Yukon, Canada.

Jung made the rare sighting while walking around in a residential area roughly five miles southeast of Whitehorse. He recorded the 30-second video in August 2020, but it wasn’t released on YouTube until this morning. Watching the clip, you can hear a dog barking loudly in the background as the wild cat sits calmly in someone’s yard. The lynx quickly tires of the barking and starts to walk away around the 16-second mark, eventually slinking off camera and out of the yard.

The video is low resolution, as Jung was approximately 160 feet away from the cat when he filmed it. Jung felt confident that it was a lynx, though, as the cat’s short tail and ear tufts are clearly visible, even in the grainy photos. He explains in the report that it couldn’t have been a bobcat because Whitehorse is situated more than 650 miles north of that species’ native range.

“Several Canada lynx experts also confirmed that the animal recorded was a lynx,” Jung writes, adding that “photographs extracted from the video clearly show a melanistic lynx.”

Although its relatively rare, melanism is a genetic mutation that affects all sorts of wildlife species, from mule deer to alligator gar. Plenty of melanistic wild cats have been documented in the wild, and at least 20 all-black bobcats have been recorded over the past hundred years, according to Jung’s report. But until recently, nobody in the scientific community had ever seen or heard of an all-black lynx.

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“I contacted several lynx experts with extensive live capture and camera trapping experience, and no one had observed or even heard of a melanistic Canada lynx,” Jung explains. “Despite being commonly observed and targeted in the fur harvest, neo previous reports of a melanistic Canada lynx exist.”

Jung called the trait “maladaptive” in this instance, speculating that an all-black lynx might have a difficult time hunting and surviving in the wild. Just like their favorite prey, snowshoe hares, lynx typically change their coats with the seasons, transitioning from a reddish-brown coat in the summer to a silvery gray coat in the wintertime.

“Dark-coloured Canada lynx are likely far less camouflaged to snowshoe hare during winter when the ground is covered with deep snow,” Jung writes. “Hence, melanistic individuals would be at a distinct disadvantage when hunting hares during winter.”