Dartmoor zoo calls in animal tracker in search for escaped lynx
Tracker has equipment supplied by Scott Country International, that can spot traces of body heat, and has shared tips such as rubbing cowpats on searchers’ feet
A professional animal tracker with state-of-the-art thermal imaging equipment has been brought in to bolster attempts to recapture a lynx that escaped from Dartmoor zoo.
The tracker, who has worked on conservation projects in the UK and the US, has already carried out preliminary recons of the six square mile area of farm, woods and moorland over which the animal, named Flaviu, is believed to be roaming.
Flaviu went missing on Wednesday 6 July after chewing his way out of his wooden house within hours of arriving at the zoo. Since then he has evaded attempts to lure him back into captivity.
The zoo’s operations manager, George Hyde, said: “Our task is being made more difficult because Flaviu is roaming over a wider and wider area. He seems to be looping out in each direction and those loops are getting bigger and bigger.”
He said the advice of the tracker, who asked not to be named because of the nature of some of his work, had been invaluable. “There were little tips he pointed out to us which will be incredibly useful in future, for example rubbing cowpats on our feet to disguise our scents."
“A lynx in the wild will be familiar with the smell of a cow and its dung, whereas the smell of a human would put it on its mettle because it would see us as a possible threat.”
The tracker went on his first five-hour exploratory mission on Thursday night and took as his starting point the last confirmed sighting of Flaviu, which was by a quarry worker on his way home.
Hyde said: “He looked up and saw a lynx sitting watching him on a nearby grass verge. He was obviously somewhat surprised and it had probably been watching him for some time. Apparently Flaviu calmly ambled off.”
The tracker covered about half of Flaviu’s known territory and got close to foxes and deer but saw no sign of any lynx. He is heading out again this weekend.
He said: “What we are looking to do is build up as much data as possible about Flaviu. We want to locate him, then watch him from afar and go back again to reinforce what his habits are."
“That will give us the best chance of recapturing him by hopefully putting traps in the right places. We will still need a bit of luck in him being off his guard to catch him though.”