FARGO — They’ve been on the wish list at the Red River Zoo for years.

The Eurasian lynx, native to a wide area stretching from north-central Europe to central Asia, seemed a perfect fit for North Dakota’s cold winters and warm summers.

After years of fundraising through community partnerships, the zoo secured two of the big cats and will introduce them to the public during its spring kickoff this weekend.

Sally Jacobson, the zoo's executive director, said the 7-year-old female siblings are named Jillian and Mirka. "They’re quite spectacular creatures to watch," she said.

At the zoo, the lynx are nestled between the Bactrian camels and the Chinese red pandas, in a space previously occupied by another exhibit.

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Zookeepers are still getting to know the personalities of the cats, which have been in Fargo for only a little more than a week. Jillian is more of an explorer — her sister, not as much.

“It took Mirka a couple more hours to come outside,” Jacobson said.

Lynx are known for their black-tufted ears and short, black-tipped tails. They have large, snowshoe-like paws, allowing them to get through deep snow quickly. Females usually weigh 18 to 46 pounds, and males weigh 40 to 66 pounds.

With back legs longer than their front legs, lynx can spring while hunting for prey, allowing them to jump as high as 8 feet straight in the air.

In the wild, they eat small deer, hares and rodents. At the zoo, they’re fed a feline diet with vitamins, supplemented with ribs, rabbits and rodents, Jacobson said.

Zookeepers interact with the lynx about five times per day for general checks, feeding and behavioral training.

From their previous location, the cats know 15 trained behaviors aimed at making certain situations go more smoothly. Those include vaccinations, weigh-ins and required shifting between their indoor and outdoor enclosures.

Female siblings, Jillian and Mirka, are part of the new Eurasian lynx exhibit at the Red River Zoo in Fargo. Special to The Forum / Red River Zoo
Female siblings, Jillian and Mirka, are part of the new Eurasian lynx exhibit at the Red River Zoo in Fargo. Special to The Forum / Red River Zoo

The lynx siblings drew high marks from a couple of early season zoo visitors.

Eric Tarnow and his wife Kristy of Fargo have a zoo membership and recently brought their four children for a visit. “I think it’s pretty cool, actually,” said 8-year-old Vaughn Tarnow of the new lynx exhibit.

“It’s awesome that they put a new animal in there,” said younger brother, 7-year-old Liam Tarnow.

The zoo will hold a ribbon-cutting for the new exhibit during its Party for the Planet celebration, set for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 20.

The event, an Earth Day celebration, will include activities, crafts and "animal encounters." After the party, the zoo will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily through Halloween.

If you go:

What: Party for the Planet, including the grand opening of the Eurasian lynx exhibit, along with activities, crafts, animal encounters and zookeeper chats

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 20

Where: Red River Zoo, 4255 23rd Ave. S., Fargo