The Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) is a medium-sized cat native to European and Siberian forests, where it is one of the predators. While its conservation status has been classified as "Least Concern", populations of Eurasian lynx have been reduced or extirpated from western Europe, where it is now being reintroduced.
The Eurasian lynx is the biggest of the lynxes, ranging in length from 81 to 129 cm (32 to 51 in) and standing about 70 cm (28 in) at the shoulder. Males usually weigh from 18 to 30 kg (40 to 66 lb) and females weigh 18 kg (40 lb) on average. It has grey to reddish fur with black spots. The pattern of the fur is variable; lynxes with heavily spotted fur may exist close to conspecifics with plain fur. The Eurasian lynx is mainly nocturnal and lives solitarily as an adult. Moreover, the sounds this lynx makes are very quiet and seldom heard, so the presence of the species in an area may go unnoticed for years. Remnants of prey or tracks on snow are usually observed long before the animal is seen.
Lynxes prey on hares, rabbits, rodents, grouse, wild boar, chamois, foxes, roe deer and reindeer. As with other cats, trying on larger prey presents a risk to the animal. The main method of hunting is stalking, sneaking and jumping on prey. In winter certain snow conditions make this harder and the animal may be forced to switch to larger prey. The European lynx likes rugged forested country providing plenty of hideouts and stalking opportunities. The hunting area of an average lynx is from 20 to 60 km2 (8 to 23 sq mi) and it can tread more than 20 km (12 mi) during one night.
Status and range
- Central Asia: The European lynx is native to the Chinese provinces of Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan and Shaanxi, as well as to Iran, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and to Northern Pakistan (Kashmir).
- Russia: More than 90% of all Eurasian Lynxes live in the forests of Siberia. They are distributed from the western borders of Russia to the Pacific island of Sakhalin.
- Turkey: As "the fate of Turkey's wildlife lies with various governmental bodies holding often conflicting agendas and handicapped by a lack of skilled personnel and funding" unfortunately "there are no estimates of the number" of Eurasian lynx living in Turkey and possibly their number is declining due to legal hunting of the animal from August to the end of March every year.
Once this cat was quite common in all of Europe. By the middle of the 19th century, it had become extinct in most countries of Central and Western Europe. Recently, there have been successful attempts to reintroduce this lynx to forests.
Status of the Eurasian lynx in various European countries and regions:
- Carpathian Mountains: About 2,800 lynxes live in this mountain range in the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Serbia. It is the largest continuous Eurasian lynx population west of the Russian border.
- Balkan peninsula: The Balkan Lynx is found in Serbia, Macedonia, Albania and Greece, with the largest numbers in remote hills of western Macedonia. The Balkan Lynx is considered a national symbol of Macedonia, and it is depicted on the reverse of the Macedonian 5 denars coin, issued in 1993. It has been on the brink of extinction for nearly a century. Numbers are estimated to be around one hundred, and the decline is due to illegal poaching.
- Britain: It was thought that the lynx had died out in Britain either about 10,000 years ago, after the ice had retreated, or about 4,000 years ago, during a cooler and wetter climate change. However, carbon dating of lynx skulls taken from the National Museums of Scotland and the Craven caves in North Yorkshire show they lived in Britain between 80 and 425 AD. A native name for the animal, lox, existed in Old English. There is interest in reintroducing the lynx to Britain.
- Czech Republic: In Bohemia, the lynx was exterminated in the 19th century (1830-1890) and in Moravia probably at the turn of the 20th century. After 1945, migration from Slovakia created a small and unstable population in Moravia. In the 1980s, almost 20 specimens were imported from Slovakia and reintroduced in the Šumava area. In early 2006, the population of lynx in the Czech Republic was estimated at 65-105 individuals. Hunting is prohibited, but the lynx is often threatened by poachers.
- Dinaric Alps and Julian Alps: Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are home to between 130 and 200 lynxes. The Eurasian lynx had been considered extinct in these countries since the beginning of the 20th century. However, a successful reintroduction project was carried out in Slovenia in 1973, when three female and three male lynxes from Slovakia were released in the Kočevski forest. Today, lynxes can be found in the Slovenian Alps and in the Croatian regions of Gorski Kotar and Velebit, spanning the Dinaric Alps and over the Dinara Mountain into western Bosnia and Herzegovina. Croatia's Plitvice Lakes National Park is home to several pairs of lynxes. In the three countries, the Eurasian lynx is listed as an endangered species and protected by law. Realistic population estimates are 40 lynxes in Slovenia, 40-60 in Croatia, and >50 in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Croatian massif Risnjak in Risnjak National Park probably got its name from the Croatian word for lynx, ris.
- Fennoscandia: Fennoscandian lynxes were close to extinction in the 1930s-1950s but increased again thanks to protection. In the meantime protective hunting for lynxes has been legalized again. The numbers are still on a slow increase. Lynx is the only non-domestic feline in Scandinavia.
- Estonia: There are 900 individuals in Estonia according to the last estimation in 2001.
- Finland: 1500, according to a 2008 estimate.
- Norway: The Eurasian Lynx is found in stable populations throughout Norway except for the southwestern counties, where they are only found sporadically. The national goal of 65 lynxes bred was reached in 2007, with 69 to 74 registered lynxes bred. The population was estimated at 409-439 specimens.
- Sweden: Sweden had an estimated population of about 1400 lynxes in 2006. The hunt is controlled by government agencies. Hunters who wish hunt for lynx must register for the so-called "protective hunt," which takes place in March. There are only a few animals to be shot in each region depending on how many lynxes there are and/or how the reindeer herding is affected. Every shot animal and shooting location is controlled by the County Administration, and the carcass is sent away for analysis to National Veterinary Institute. The shooter himself may keep the skin, if a microchip or transponder is attached by the local police authority. The skull of the shot animal can be sent back to the hunter for a fee of about €70. No more than 75 animals in 20 regions were permitted to be shot in 2007, an increase from 51 in 2006 (always about 5 % of the population). In 2006 there were 41 lynxes killed outside of hunting, 31 of which were killed in traffic accidents.
- France: The lynx was exterminated by about the year 1900, but was later reintroduced to the Vosges and Pyrenees.
- Germany: The Eurasian Lynx was exterminated in Germany in 1850. It was reintroduced to the Bavarian Forest and the Harz in the 1990s; other areas were populated by lynxes immigrating from neighboring France and the Czech Republic. In 2002 the first birth of wild lynxes on German territory was announced, following a litter from a pair of lynxes in the Harz National Park. Small populations exist also in Saxon Switzerland, Palatinate Forest and Fichtelgebirge.
- Netherlands: The lynx has been extinct in the Netherlands since the Middle Ages. Although there were some sightings, they probably stem from captive-bred lynx who have escaped or released to the wild.
- Belgium: The lynx was extinct for about 300 years, but started to recolonize the eastern part of the country in the first decade of the 21st century (around Vielsalm and Voeren). These animals are probably species from the populations in Germany (Eiffel, allegedly also illegal introduction by German hunters) and France (Vosges).
- Poland: The Mammal Research Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences has information about "at least 128 lynxes", observed in 2006/2007. The report suggests that the number is underestimated.
- Slovakia: The lynx is native to forested areas in Central and East Slovakia. The lynx in Slovakia lives mainly in mixed forests at altitudes from 800 to 1000 m. The feline can also be found in many national parks of Slovakia and other protected areas.
- Switzerland: The lynx became extinct here in 1915, but was reintroduced in 1971. From here, the lynx migrated to Austria, where they have been exterminated as well. A higher proportion are killed by human causes than by infectious diseases.
- Italy: The Lynx was considered extinct since the early XX century. In recent years, after some verified sighting of a really small population in the parks of central Italy, hopes are rising of having a native population still surviving.
Precise classification of the subspecies of the Eurasian Lynx is still the subject of debate, but based on recent interpretation, the list includes:
- Lynx lynx lynx, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Western Siberia
- Lynx lynx carpathicus, Carpathian Mountains, Central Europe
- Lynx lynx martinoi, Balkans
- Lynx lynx dinniki, Caucasus
- Lynx lynx wardi, Altai mountains
- Lynx lynx wrangeli, Eastern Siberia
- Lynx lynx isabellinus, Central Asia
- Lynx lynx kozlovi, Central Siberia
- Lynx lynx stroganovi, Amur region
- Lynx lynx sardiniae, Sardinia†
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- ^ ELOIS - Eurasian Lynx Online Information System
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