Everything lined up just right last week for Silverton photographer Wesley Berg.
It would have been enough just to have seen a Canada lynx in the wild – a rare encounter, given that fewer than 250 of the threatened species are estimated to live in Colorado.
But not only did he encounter a lynx on April 11, he was equipped with his camera and an 800 mm telephoto lens.
And not only did he see a lynx and have the proper equipment to photograph it, but the animal spent an hour in his presence, warming in the morning sun, leaving Berg ample time to observe and take pictures.
“That’s one of my goals when I photograph wildlife, that doesn’t happen very often, is for the animal to kind of ignore me,” Berg said. “That’s kind of the ultimate experience for a wildlife photographer in my opinion.”
Berg last saw a pair of lynx nearly seven years ago, while backcountry skiing near Silverton. At the time, he was only able to quickly capture a few photographs with a small point-and-shoot camera.
The sighting piqued more of an interest in wildlife photography, and he began to casually pursue opportunities to find the animal when he could.
Over the last seven years, Berg has occasionally tried to follow lynx tracks. But the elusive mid-sized carnivores are hard to find. They are small, quiet and typically travel alone. And, even after a successful effort by Colorado Parks and Wildlife in the early 2000s to reintroduce lynx to the San Juan Mountains, the estimated population sits between 150 and 250 animals.
Last week, Berg was out near Silverton trying to track down a family of moose when he spotted the cat about 100 feet away on the opposite side of a creek bed.
“I often get surprised and run into something I didn’t expect,” he said.
But Berg spent over an hour, watching the animal nap and bask in the sun.
CPW spokesman John Livingston said the agency often snaps photos of lynx with game cameras, but said it is relatively rare for civilians to find them.
He added that people mistake bobcats for lynx. Bobcats are far more common, spotted, and generally smaller than lynx, while lynx have longer tufts on their ears and long, straight hind legs.