When it comes to courtship in the animal kingdom, frogs peep, crickets chirp, and cicadas click.
But nothing on Earth compares to the ruckus rendered by a male Canada lynx defending his mate.
Amos Wiebe, a photographer in Grande Prairie, Canada, personally experienced this otherworldly racket last week when he stumbled upon a trio of lynx while driving down a remote logging road. (Read about the lynx's return to Canada.)
Wiebe was searching for northern pygmy owls to photograph when a flurry of movement caught his eye.
"All of a sudden, I saw a commotion," he says. "These two lynx were just flying around up in the trees."
Wiebe managed to park his truck and wade through deep snow to capture the wildcats' effortless acrobatics on video.
"I've never seen a lynx do that. It's like it was just suctioned to the tree," says Wiebe. "They just climb up like it's nothing."
A Lynx Love Triangle
It may look like a fit of screaming cat chaos, but according to Shannon Crowley, a wildlife ecologist at the John Prince Research Forest in British Columbia, the scene provides a rare glimpse into the predators' breeding behavior.
Based on the cats' sizes and tufts of facial fur, called ruffs, Crowley says both lynx in the tree are likely males. And while he can't be sure, the third lynx, which is not shown in the video, is likely female.
"To see that kind of aggression, there must be a female somewhere in the near vicinity," says Crowley. (See photos of some of our favorite felines.)
Female lynx are thought to mate with just one male a year, says Crowley, so the bigger—and dominant—male had probably run the other cat up the tree to protect his breeding opportunity.
These battle cries are not the only spooky noises lynx make. During the breeding season, Crowley says he's heard males following females through the trees while making a short, repetitive moan.
All Banshee, No Bite
Though they put on a fierce show, a fully grown, an adult male Canada lynx usually weighs no more than about 40 pounds, so it's unlikely Wiebe was ever in any real danger, Crowley notes.
"Even when we would document litters at the den site, the female would generally run off," he says. Though the little-seen cats are not dangerous to people, it's important to give lynx—and any wildlife—a healthy distance. (Here are seven cats you never knew existed.)
Still, the photographer says he felt pretty vulnerable standing hip-deep in snow. At one point, Wiebe even pulled out a canister of bear spray, lest all that yowling were to attract a mountain lion.
And those unholy vocalizations didn't help either.
"It certainly is an eerie sound to hear in the forest," says Crowley.