Why didn’t the lynx captured in the Gatineau Park on Aug. 29 (“Lynx in Gatineau Park acting ‘abnormally’ may have rabies,” Sept. 4 edition) get taken to the veterinary school in Guelph, Ontario or to the veterinary school at the University of Montreal in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec for an evaluation?
Yes, hunting for mice on sidewalks is odd, but the fact that it was hunting is a good sign, as rabid animals do not typically show hunting behaviour. Also, mice are part of the normal diet for a lynx so hunting for them was not so odd.
The Canada lynx does like snowshoe hares, but after our wet May and June, I wonder if this was a poor reproductive year for this primary source of food for the lynx? From the picture in the paper, it’s hard to determine the size of the lynx for sure, but it appears to be a young animal, and maybe it was just a poor hunter having left its mother recently.
The Canada lynx typically weighs 15-25 pounds (7-11 kg), so it’s often only about twice the size of an average house cat.
That lynxes are rarely seen (though not endangered in most of Canada, unlike the US), and the fact that it had been caught alive, why wasn’t an attempt made to determine if the animal was sick with an abscess, parasites or another treatable disease, which made it thin, weak and confused, rather than taking the easy way out and dispatching it?
If in fact it did have rabies, once the animal shows signs of the disease, it is usually dead within seven to 10 days.
When rabies is first found in an area, it is typically seen in animals such as raccoons and skunks prior to being seen in animals higher up in the food chain. According to the Canadian gov’t website, there have been four rabid bats in Quebec between January and June 30, 2013. There have been five rabid bats and one dog in Ontario during the same time frame. Rabies can be endemic in bat populations, so those numbers are not unusual. Here in St. Lawrence County, New York, we have had 20 positive rabies cases this year, which included 15 raccoons, two skunks and three bats.
As a veterinarian and a frequent visitor to La Peche, I would hope that instead of euthanizing every animal that is not where we expect it to be (and hyping it up with the word ‘rabies’), we look to see if the animal has bitten any human and then make a rational and humane decision, which also keeps the best interest of the poor animal in mind.
Tony Beane, Professor of Veterinary Science Technology, State University of New York