Published: September 2, 2009 by the South Central Region
Contact(s): Derek Duane, MEEC Director, Poynette: (608) 635-8110
POYNETTE - The MacKenzie Environmental Education Center (MEEC) near here will again be home to two rare Canada lynx thanks to a fund raising effort spearheaded by the director of the Poynette Public Library and local school children
Two Canada lynx kittens will make their public 'debut' on Wednesday, Sept. 2, at 11:00 a.m., at MEEC, located about two miles east of Poynette off County Highway CS.
Canada lynx, a protected wild animal in Wisconsin and never common in the state, are short-tailed, long-legged wildcats. Snowshoe hares are the main food of the lynx, but they will eat other small mammals like squirrels, voles, and small birds such as grouse.
The Canada lynx pen in the wildlife exhibit at MEEC had been vacant for over a year. The recently hired director of the Poynette library, Kris Daugherty, asked if she could begin a fundraising effort to help pay for a replacement lynx. The center's director, Derek Duane, and wildlife technician Dan Mautz, met with Ms. Daugherty on May 5th to discuss the idea. Even though the estimated cost of a lynx was about $2,000, she was not at all discouraged and the project was off and running within a few days of the meeting.
Ms. Daugherty loves cats and said that since the library uses the "link-cat" system, she thought that a community-wide fundraising effort would be well supported. She wanted to make it easy for all the kids that visit the library to donate money so suggested a "penny drive". Posters and donation jars were placed at popular locations throughout Poynette and also at the MacKenzie Center and it did not take long for the jars to start filling.
She kept the community updated through a regular new article in the local press. The Friends of the Library were so taken with her efforts that they agreed to match "penny-for-penny" the amount of money donated. After only about two months the total had surpassed $700 and by mid August $900. A local couple with strong ties to the MacKenzie Center wrote a check to the library for $100 to insure the goal was met.
Once the fundraiser began, a search was launched to locate a lynx for the exhibit. The MacKenzie Center policy is to never take an animal from the wild for exhibit purposes.
"We wait for an injured, orphaned, confiscated, or captive-born animal to replace those that typically die of old age. This can often take several years and up until August 24th, no lynx could be found," said MEEC director Derek Duane. Knowing how important it was to find a lynx and how disappointed everyone would be if one was not found soon, Mr. Duane placed a call to Pecks Wildwood Park in Minocqua. He was given a name of someone in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota that had some lynx kittens "a while ago".
Mr. Duane made the call and the news was almost too good to be true. "Yes, we actually have TWO lynx kittens for sale", said John Weichert. The price was $1,500 each and Mr. Weichert wanted to sell them as a pair. Both are three-month-old males and would make excellent additions to the education exhibit at MacKenzie. Mr. Duane then made a call to the president of the Friends of MacKenzie Center, Barney Lohan, to ask if they would consider donating toward their purchase. He immediately replied "yes" take them both, said the MEEC director.
Immediately, Mr. Duane called Ms. Daugherty at the library who was thrilled with the news. Not only was a lynx located, but there were actually two kittens, just as she had shown on her fundraising posters. Several phone calls later, the purchase was confirmed, import permits were obtained, and transportation to Poynette was arranged. The cats arrived at MEEC last Friday and are isolated for now.
"Even during tough economic times, people will rally to support a worthwhile cause. The new lynx will serve a role as educators at the MacKenzie Center for many years to come thanks to wonderful local support and a great idea from Kris Daugherty," said Mr. Duane.
The distribution of Canada lynx closely follows the abundance of its main food - the snowshoe hare. Lynx populations rise and fall in response to the periodic 10-year 'boom and bust' population cycles of snowshoe hares. When the 10-year cycle of snowshoe hare populations crashes, lynx have to wander farther for food. Some of their wanderings bring them to Wisconsin.
Biologists don't think that Canada lynx are breeding in Wisconsin, so all sightings - and they are rare since lynx travel at night and avoid people - are probably just visitors, not residents.
The MacKenzie Environmental Education Center is located just two miles east of Poynette on highway CS. The property is owned by the Department of Natural Resources and managed by the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation. The wildlife exhibit is open to the public seven days a week from 8am until 4pm daily. Over twenty other species of animals native to Wisconsin are also housed in the exhibit. For directions to the facility or further information, please call (608) 635-8110 or check out its website at Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.