The secret lives of Canada lynx

Using a Fitbit and a spy mic, scientists have discovered new insight into the behaviour of the elusive Canada lynx. A new study by researchers from McGill University, University of Alberta, and Trent University provides a first look at how miniaturized technology can open the door to remote wildlife monitoring.

"Working on one of the boreal forest’s top predators, the Canada lynx, we found that two different technologies, accelerometers and audio recording devices, can be used to remotely monitor the hunting behaviour of predators, even documenting the killing of small prey," says lead author Emily Studd , a Postdoctoral Fellow under the supervision of Murray Humphries at McGill University and Stan Boutin at University of Alberta.

"We captured chases, screams of the prey as they were caught, calls of the prey as they escaped, and bones crunching, along with friendly and aggressive interactions between different lynx," says Studd. Hear the recordings in Studd’s recent CBC interview.

"A lot of people want to know what wild animals do when we can’t see them. The ability to continuously record their movements and sounds in their natural environment can provide insight into mating rituals, parental care, social interactions - even how individuals differ from one another or change over time," says co-author Allyson Menzies , a recent PhD graduate at McGill University.

According to the researchers, understanding the hunting behaviour of predators is key information for ecologists, providing insight into the wellbeing of an ecosystem.

"Unfortunately, predators are naturally secretive animals due to their need to sneak up on their prey, which makes studying them and recording this information incredibly difficult," explains Studd. Their use of accelerometers and audio recorders provide two new, highly effective methods that can be applied to any predator to monitor behaviour and collect information.

About the study

"The Purr-fect Catch: Using accelerometers and audio recorders to document kill rates and hunting behaviour of a small prey specialist," by Emily K. Studd, Rachael E. Derbyshire, Allyson K. Menzies, John F. Simms, Murray M. Humphries, Dennis L. Murray, and Stan Boutin was published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution . This research is part of the Kluane Canada lynx project. Funding was provided for this project by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Weston Family Foundation, and Institut Nordique du Québec.

About McGill University

Founded in 1821, McGill University is home to exceptional students, faculty, and staff from across Canada and around the world. It is consistently ranked as one of the top universities, both nationally and internationally. It is a world-renowned institution of higher learning with research activities spanning two campuses, 11 faculties, 13 professional schools, 300 programs of study and over 40,000 students, including more than 10,200 graduate students.  

McGill’s commitment to sustainability reaches back several decades and spans scales from local to global. The sustainability declarations that we have signed affirm our role in helping to shape a future where people and the planet can flourish.