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Walking with Ghosts

Predator biologist Elizabeth Hofer tracks and studies the elusive lynx in the Yukon's boreal forests.

A printer-friendly version of this page 45 minutes
Closed Captioned

Directed by Caroline Underwood
Produced by CBC's "The Nature of Things"
Executive Producer, Michael Allder

"Really captures the mystery and majesty of lynx and their landscape." Mitch Friedman, Executive Director, Northwest Ecosystem Alliance
"When I'm following a lynx's tracks, I can tell how fast she is traveling, where she had a rest, or if she was stalking hares. It is as if I have a ghost walking beside me." - Elizabeth Hofer, predator biologist

Once known as the "wood ghost", the lynx is one of only three big cats native to Canada. Predator biologist Elizabeth Hofer has been tracking the relationship between the elusive lynx and its prey, the snowshoe hare, for 18 years in the Yukon. A field technician, she's grown to be an expert in collecting data on carnivores through the age-old practice of tracking.

Hofer's study area is the boreal forests of the Yukon, centered around Kluane National Park. Boreal forest covers more than four million square kilometers of Canada - about one third of the country. Dominated by coniferous tree species that are well adapted to dry, cold weather, it is in these forests that the lynx and hare are tied together in a continuous cycle; the survival of the lynx is mitigated by the hare population, which experiences a dramatic decline every 10 years. This predictable factor gives Hofer the opportunity to trace what happens as the lynx attempt to adapt and survive the food shortage.

Learn about the animals and the Kluane region of the boreal forest as Hofer and cameraman Ron Shade traverse swamps and dense forests, capturing never-before seen footage of wild lynx in their natural environment. Their research is a lesson in non-intrusive field study techniques, employed by the scientists as well as the patient filmmaker.

Walking With Ghosts provides a rare and intimate glimpse at a delicately balanced cycle of death and renewal.

Grade Level: 7-12, Collge, Adult
US Release Date: 2005     Copyright Date: 2004
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-231-9     VHS ISBN: 1-59458-230-0

"Walking with Ghosts really captures the mystery and majesty of lynx and their landscape. It features some of the best boreal forest footage that I've seen, giving an intimate perspective on the unique struggles associated with trying to survive boom to bust cycles in nature's icebox. My whole family - including my cats - enjoyed it."
Mitch Friedman, Executive Director, Northwest Ecosystem Alliance

"Walking with Ghosts is an intriguing peek into the life of the lynx, it's prey the snowshoe hare, and a biologist that studies them. Like the other wild cats of North America, lynx are seldom seen yet a script of their lives is left with their tracks in the snow. For scientists that study these animals there is no clearer picture of the life of a lynx than that gained by deciphering these hieroglyphs in the snow. More modern approaches using radio telemetry may unlock some of the secret ways of a lynx but, like the chapter titles in a book, they reveal only a broad landscape scale view and little about the 'day-to-day' activities of these secretive predators. The ancient skill of tracking animals in the snow is what biologist Liz Hofer excels at. Only by following the lynx's step-by-step meanderings in the northern forests can we really understand the relationship between the cryptic and quick hare and the secretive, elusive, and ghost like lynx."
Gary M. Koehler, Ph.D., Project C.A.T. (Cougars and Teaching), Principal Investigator, Washington Depart. Fish and Wildlife

"[Walking with Ghosts] provides an excellent description of the art of snow-tracking and is a unique approach to sharing with viewers some of the natural history of lynx in winter. The footage of free-ranging lynx exhibiting a variety of natural behaviors is exceptional. The accompanying script is beautifully descriptive of lynx ecology as well as educational. This film provides the viewer with a clear explanation of what information can be discerned from the art and science of snow-tracking. One of the strongest points to make about snow-tracking is how much you can learn about an animal and its behavior without ever seeing it and this is brought out in the film... The footage of lynx readily portrays natural lynx behavior in their natural habitat, a feat rarely captured on film... The script also provides information on the link between the physical features of lynx and their ecology. The segment on why lynx rarely feed on frozen carcasses was especially well done..."
Tanya Shenk, Ph.D., Mammals Research, Colorado Division of Wildlife, Dept. of Natural Resources

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Awards and Festivals
Best Professional Film, Animal Behavior Society Film Festival
Merit Awards, International Wildlife Film Festival, Missoula
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
Planet in Focus, The Toronto International Environmental Film Festival

Animal Behavior/Communication
Animal Rights
Arctic Studies
Canadian Studies
Forests and Rainforests
Life Science

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... more Reviews

"The camera work detailing Hofer's tracking is carefully planned to emphasize the solitary nature of her work and her isolation in the winter forest... Walking with Ghosts is recommended for its excellent treatment of predator/prey relationships and for providing the viewer with glimpses into the solitary existence of the elusive lynx as it fights to survive the sub-Arctic winter... This video will enhance library collections in ecology, natural history, and zoology. It shows the best of deep winter in the wilds of western Canada, cloudless skies, the sparkling windless, snowless days when the sun raises the temperature to within a few degrees above or below zero Fahrenheit."
Cliff Glaviano, Bowling Green State University Libraries for Educational Media Reviews Online

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