HARBOR BEACH, MI — The Michigan trapper who captured a rare lynx after it killed a farmer’s pet geese says he wanted to release the animal back into the wild and regrets that state officials took it to a nature center.
He also says he’s faced social media criticism for trapping the animal and some people are wishing him dead.
Jordan Cook, 29, is a beekeeper by trade who lives in Applegate, a village of about 250 people in Sanilac County, along Lake Huron. He’s also a self-taught trapper.
Cook says the owner of McCoy Honey Co. in Harbor Beach, Joseph McCoy, asked for his help after spotting two apparent lynx on the property, at least one of which attacked and killed McCoy’s pet geese and a duck.
Cook was out to dinner with his girlfriend, Stacey Pattee, on Friday, March 15, when McCoy called.
“He swore up and down that it was a lynx or a bobcat and I said, ‘I don’t know, Joe, no one’s ever caught one around here.’”
Cook found a grisly scene at McCoy’s farm.
“I shined the field and I saw the dead geese. There was blood all over the goose coop,” he said. “It looked like a murder scene, you know?”
He said he then saw “cat eyes” in the darkness.
Cook contacted the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and explained the situation. After watching a lynx attack another goose Saturday, the men set traps, as directed by DNR officials. By 6 a.m. Sunday morning, March 17, they had captured what biologists would later confirm to be a female Canada lynx.
This is the first verified sighting and capture of a lynx in Michigan’s lower peninsula since 1917, according to the DNR. It comes about a month after an apparent lynx was seen on a video shot in nearby Lexington. The DNR has not confirmed McCoy’s account of a second lynx roaming the area.
Pattee captured video of the lynx in the leg trap as Cook and several others released the lynx from the trap and transferred it to a waiting dog cage. Cook called the DNR again to let officials know they had captured the cat.
Cook said he wanted to release the lynx back into the wild, in a remote, swampy area in the Thumb, away from McCoy’s farm and away from people, but officials told him to keep it in the cage. DNR officials later relocated the lynx to Howell Nature Center’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic, where it was evaluated.
Cook said he wouldn’t have turned the cat over to the state if he knew it would end up in captivity.
But wildlife experts say the cat’s behavior was unusual and veterinarians must evaluate it before potentially releasing it back into the wild.
Howell Nature Center, where the lynx was being cared for, posted an update on its Facebook page Tuesday, March 19. It read, in part:
“The Canada Lynx brought to us yesterday by the DNR is doing well under our care! Our goal at the Howell Nature Center is to offer the best possible outcome for animals brought to our Wildlife Clinic. According to a DNR representative, this is the first live lynx captured in the state in more than 40 years.
“At this time, it has been determined that additional resources are needed to include a full physical and behavioral assessment. As such, this animal will be transferred to the Detroit Zoological Society later this week. It is not yet clear if the lynx is a released/escaped illegal pet or is in fact, truly wild. After the evaluation, a determination by the DNR will be made if it can be released back to the wild.”
Dan Kennedy, endangered species coordinator for the Michigan DNR, confirmed state officials gave Cook permission to trap and then cage the animal.
“The Detroit Zoo has the staff, the equipment and the expertise and facilities to do a thorough evaluation to let us know the lynx’s overall health,” Kennedy said. “Once we get that information from them, then we’ll sit down with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine an appropriate course of action.”
‘I never thought it would be lynx’
Since he caught the lynx, Cook said he’s received positive feedback and messages of support, but he’s also received vitriol from some hunting and trapping critics. Some people have wished him dead, something he says has happened before in response to his trapping-related posts on social media.
“A lot of them are upset with the idea of trapping in general,” he said, noting that there are misconceptions about trapping and the types of traps used today. The trap he used to capture the lynx did not injure the animal, he said. “That’s just a big misconception about what I do and what trappers do. We’re here to conserve nature and maintain healthy populations of animals.”
“That, and I was wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat (in the video),” Cook continued. “I think if it wasn’t for that hat, a lot of them wouldn’t be saying what they are and treating me how they are.”
Cook has been trapping as a hobby for the past decade, a tradition he was first introduced to as a young boy that he now shares with his own children.
“I ran my great-grandpa’s trap line with him when I was very young,” Cook recalled. “I have two little girls that absolutely love it and they were born into it.”
Cook said he runs about 50 to 100 traps for coyote, beaver, muskrat, mink, just about “anything with fur in Huron County,” but “I never thought it would be lynx.”
Kennedy couldn’t confirm whether or not the lynx was uninjured in the trapping process but said, “I know that it can look rough on the video, but, he was also, you have to consider human health concerns as well while handling a wild lynx. You have to use that pole and there’s certain protocols to follow while doing that.”
He added, “The animal appears to be doing OK right now, but we’re waiting on the veterinarians to do a thorough evaluation.