DULUTH, Minn. -- Thomas Spence was looking for moose to photograph near Tofte on Saturday morning when he came upon a Canada lynx standing in the road.
Then a second lynx entered the road from the woods. Then another and another and another.
Five lynx cuddled in the road in front of Spence for a minute before bounding off and disappearing into the woods of the Superior National Forest. But it was long enough for the Tofte, Minn., photographer to get a few photos of the group.
"I couldn't believe it. I still am a little floored. As I was taking pictures, I was kinda laughing because I couldn't believe it was happening," he said.
Seeing the five lynx is now among Spence's top wildlife experiences in his 25 years of living in Tofte. He said he believes the group he saw was a female lynx with her four kittens.
Though lynx are occasionally seen in the wild, it's unusual to happen onto several together, said Ron Moen, a research biologist with the University of Minnesota Duluth who has studied the species. But it's normal for a family group to be traveling together this time of year, he said.
"The kittens stay with the mom for almost a year, so that part is not unusual," Moen said. "But it's unusual to see that many together. (It means) good foraging conditions."
A female lynx might have from one to six kittens, Moen said. The U.S. Forest Service has documented lynx reproduction in Minnesota every year since the early 2000s, he said.
Kittens are born in May and stay with their mom for about 11 months, learning to hunt.
A typical adult female lynx weighs about 20 to 24 pounds, Moen said.