A little skirmish between a dog and a cat is nothing to write home about. But a snowy standoff between a wolf and a lynx? We're listening.

This rarely seen interaction between two of Europe's top predators was caught on camera in the Carpathian Mountains of Poland by forest ranger and biologist Zenon Wojtas, who's been tracking wolves in this region for many years, after becoming fascinated with the elusive animals when he was just a teenager.

Wojtas works at the Magura National Park in Beskid Niski, a region of the Carpathians known as the "Wolf Mountains". Here, one of the continent's largest populations of bison roams side by side with other wildlife rarely seen in Europe, including brown bears, boar, beavers, lynx and the area's star canid predators, wolves. His focus is on the monitoring and protection of these often vilified carnivores.

Having spent countless days (and nights) in the dense Carpathian forests, even during the cold winter months, Wojtas has notched up many amazing wildlife encounters, but this is one he describes as the "experience of a lifetime".

"I don't think many people can say they've seen how a wild lynx behaves in the presence of a wolf – not to mention three lynxes, as this was a female with two kittens," he says.

The young cats, seen in the video at a safe distance from the unfolding action, watched their mother's behaviour intently. On the wolf's part, Wojtas explains, the interaction looked quite playful, with lots of yelping and barking. But the lynx, likely in protective mode with her young close by, didn't appear to be in a light-hearted mood. "As the wolf slowly walked towards the female lynx, she arched her back to protect her kittens, as all mothers would do. It was not a fight, the wolf only wanted to play," he says. In the end, he recalls, the lynx chased off the wolf, who retreated with its tail between its legs.

A clip of his unforgettable encounter was featured by the WWF this week to spotlight the steady return of large predators like wolves and lynx to some parts of Europe. "Both these incredible animals have bounced back from the brink of extinction thanks to strong protection, but they are still at risk," the group writes. "We cannot run the risk of losing them again; they are fundamental species to keep our natural ecosystem in balance.”


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