An Inverse Problem: Trappers Drove Hares to Eat Lynx

Bo Deng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The Canadian lynx and snowshoe hare pelt data by the Hudson Bay Company did not fit the classical predator–prey theory. Rather than following the peak density of the hare, that of the lynx leads it, creating the hares-eat-lynx (HEL) paradox. Although trappers were suspected to play a role, no mathematical model has ever demonstrated the HEL effect. Here we show that the long-held assumption that the pelt number is a proxy of the wild populations is false and that when the data are modeled by the harvest rates by the trappers, the problem is finally resolved: both the HEL paradox and the classical theory are unified in our mechanistic hare-lynx-competitor-trapper (HLCT) model where competitor stands for all predators of the hares other than the lynx. The result is obtained by systematically fitting the data to various models using Newton’s inverse problem method. Main findings of this study include: the prey-eats-predator paradox in kills by an intraguild top-predator can occur if the top-predator prefers the predator to the prey; the benchmark HLCT model is more sensitive to all lynx-trapper interactions than to the respective hare-trapper interactions; the Hudson Bay Company’s hare pelt number maybe under-reported; and, the most intriguing of all, the trappers did not interfere in each other’s trapping activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-242
Number of pages30
JournalActa Biotheoretica
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018


  • Canadian lynx and snowshoe hare
  • Dimensional analysis
  • Holling’s disc function
  • Newton’s line search method
  • Predator–prey model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Philosophy
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Applied Mathematics


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