Originally published April 13, 2019 at 09:07p.m.

Updated April 14, 2019 at 12:20a.m.

Taylor Hicks first-grader Aden Bowman loves breakfast, especially when he can eat it at the zoo while watching the antics of four Canadian lynx just a few feet away from where he dines.

On Saturday morning, Aden was particularly fascinated with the two young lynx, Whiskey and Bailey, intrigued with a big cardboard box that read “Good Morning” that prompted them to emerge from inside a nearby rock tunnel. Aden’s cereal bowl at his nearby picnic table was all but forgotten.

Aden and others delighted in watching the family of lynx at the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary parade around the enclosure that one of the zookeepers covered in a variety of spices that encouraged them to explore their surroundings. The two young ones even got into a game of chase, with one of them hopping atop an oversized Rubik’s Cube located on a picnic table inside their habitat.

Aden is a regular zoo-goer with his mother, Jennifer, and grandmother Debbie Guttilla.

At the breakfast, the zoo’s Marketing Director Ron Brashear offered a tribute to one of the zoo’s favorite animals, Cassie the Bengal tiger who died at age 13 just a couple months ago. In past years, Cassie was always the first featured animal for the annual zoo breakfasts.

Aden showed a video of Cassie that his mother keeps on her cellphone.

“He loves animals,” Jennifer Bowman said of her son. “So anytime we can come is a good reason. It allows him to get up close.”

The first time they ever came to the zoo, Bowman said her son heard Cassie “growl.”

Brashear said the spring-to-fall breakfasts prepared by KitchAcademy have proved a popular zoo feature that treats those in attendance to a tasty meal — a sweet potato sausage quiche with fresh fruit, pastries, hot and cold cereal, and coffee, tea, and juice were on this Saturday’s menu — while they learn and interact with featured zoo wildlife.

The cost to attend the zoo’s monthly breakfasts is $25 for adult non-members, $20 for members; $15 for non-member children and $10 for member children. After the 90-minute breakfast program, all attenders are welcome to tour the zoo and spend time with the other animals and visit the playground. The next breakfast on May 11 will feature the clouded leopard.

Animal program manager Dyann Kruse was the host of Saturday morning’s program. She offered the audience a glimpse into the life of the now-threatened Canadian lynx; the adults, Memphis and Foxy, came to the zoo from the Bearizona Wildlife Park in Williams. Neither were spayed or neutered, and so they ended up with five cubs. Heritage Park kept two of the now 2-year-old Whiskey and Bailey.

Kruse offered the audience some interesting tidbits about the lynx that many admitted they had never heard before. Lynx have “snowshoe-like” paws that can mimic a mountain lion footprint; their paws are an adaptation from the lynx’s native roots in the colder regions of North America and Canada. She told them that the animals like spices such as cumin, basil and rosemary, and so when the zookeepers want to get them to come out and play they sometimes will spread those herbs around their habitat.

Lynx can often be mistaken for bobcats, but Kruse said there are some key differences: Bobcats are more spotted and their stubbed tails are not all black. Their ears are also not pointed tufts as are those of the lynx, she noted.

In the wild, lynx are solitary animals; the young depart from their mother after about a year, Kruse explained. Lynx are also very active animals because in the wild they must be in constant motion seeking food – their predominant prey is the snow hare – and staying away from animals that might like to eat them for supper, she said. Lynx in captivity can live about 20 years, she said.

On the picnic table set up for breakfast the zoo employees placed an assortment of laminated cards that guests were welcome to take home to learn more about these animals — Kruse said they make for good coasters.

The children, and adults, were also encouraged to pen their names on a “Happy Birthday” card for the lynx kittens born on Earth Day two years ago.

To Dyann, these encounters are just a real treat because the people who come get to see these rescued animals in a habitat that resembles those of their origin. She and other zoo volunteers said the hope is that these experience help them glean a respect and appreciation for these animals’ beauty, grace and importance to the natural world.

“The more we know about wildlife the better we’ll all get along,” Kruse said.