The Eurasian Lynx has a very broad distribution. It occurs along forested mountain ranges in southeastern and Central Europe and from northern and eastern Europe through the Boreal forests of Russia, down into Central Asia and the Tibetan plateau (Kaczensky et al. 2012, Nowell and Jackson 1996,Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). The Lynx's stronghold is a broad strip of southern Siberian woodland stretching from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific (Matyushkin and Vaisfeld 2003). Subpopulations in the southeast of its range (Europe and southwest Asia) are generally small and widely separated, whereas the bulk of its historic range from Scandinavia through Russia and Central Asia is largely intact.
In Europe, it was probably absent from some of the larger islands such as Ireland and Sicily and from countries with few forests. It was also absent from the Iberian Peninsula, where the smaller Iberian LynxLynx pardinusoccurs. Lynx have been extirpated from most of Western and Central Europe with the exception of the Carpathian Mountains. It survived in a small area in the Balkans (Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro). Larger populations persisted in Fennoscandia, the Baltic States, and European Russia. Lynx have been released in several countries of Europe in an effort to bring back this elusive predator, including in Switzerland, Slovenia, Italy, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany and France (IUCN 2007).
Eurasian lynx are one of the most widely distributed cat species. Their range once extended throughout Russia, Central Asia, and Europe. Today they occupy a range extending from western Europe through the Russian boreal forests and to the Tibetan Plateau and Central Asia. Eurasian lynx distribution is greatly limited by the presence of humans and their activities. They are less frequent in areas with many settlements, roads, railways, and highways as these increase fatality and injury. Also, because they tend to shy away from open areas, lynx distribution is dependent on regions with high forest cover as well as forest connectivity. Deforestation in regions throughout parts of their range limits forest connectivity and hindering dispersal of Lynx lynx throughout Europe and Asia.
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native )
- 2007. "Eurasian Lynx Online Information System for Europe" (On-line). Accessed November 19, 2009 at http://www.kora.ch/en/proj/elois/online/index.html.
- 2009. "WWF" (On-line). Accessed November 10, 2009 at http://www.panda.org/about_our_earth/species/eurasian_lynx/.
- Niedziałkowska, M., W. Jedrzejewski, R. Mysłajek, S. Nowak, B. Jedrzejewska. 2006. Environmental correlates of Eurasian lynx occurrence in Poland – Large scale census and GIS mapping. Biological Conservation, 133: 63-60.
- Schmidt, K. 2008. Factors shaping the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) population in the northeastern Poland. Na t u r e C o n s e r v a t i o n, 65: 3-15.
- Schmidt, K., W. Jedrzejewski, H. Okarma, R. Kowalczyk. 2009. Spatial interactions between grey wolves and Eurasian lynx in Białowie_za Primeval Forest, Poland. Ecology Research, 24: 207-214.
Of the four lynx species, Eurasian lynx are the largest. They are also one of the largest predators in Europe, third to only brown bears and grey wolves. Their size ranges from 18 to 36 kg, body length is 70 to 130 cm and shoulder height is 60 to 65 cm. Sexual dimorphism is present, with males being larger and more robust.
The coat is varied in grey, rusty, or yellow fur. There are three main coat patterns: spotted, striped, and solid. Among those that are spotted, the pattern ranges among large spots, small spots, and rosettes. Patterns vary widely within and among regions. The belly, the front of the neck, the inside of the limbs, and the ears are whitish. The tail is short, with a solid black tip. Eurasian lynx have long legs, sharp retractable claws, a round face, and triangular ears. Characteristic features of Eurasian lynx are black tufts at the tips of the ears and a prominently flared facial ruff. The paws are large and fur-covered, which helps them to navigate in deep snow.
The skull of Eurasian lynx has characteristics typical of other felids : a short rostrum, rounded top, small M1, and lack of M2. They have features shared by other carnivorans as well: large, well-developed canines, and well-developed carnassial teeth. Unlike most other felids, Eurasian lynx have lost one upper premolar giving them the dental formula: I3/3 C1/1 P2/2 M1/1.
Range mass: 18 to 36 kg.
Range length: 70 to 130 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry ; polymorphic
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger
Habitat and Ecology
In Europe it can be found in Mediterranean forests up to the transition zone of taiga to tundra and lives from sea level up to the tree line (Breitenmoser and Breitenmoser-Wrsten 2008).
In Central Asia, Lynx occur in more open, thinly wooded areas and steppe habitats. The species probably occurs throughout the northern slopes of the Himalayas, and has been reported both from thick scrub woodland and barren, rocky areas above the tree line (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Matyushkin and Vaisfeld 2003, Breitenmoser and Breitenmoser-Wrsten 2008). Lynx occur sporadically throughout the Tibetan plateau, and are found throughout the rocky hills and mountains of the Central Asian desert regions (Nowell and Jackson 1996). In Armenia Lynx are strongly associated with true forests and arid sparse forests and to a lesser extent with subalpine meadows. Lynx have been observed up to 5,500 m (Guggisberg 1975).
The Eurasian Lynx is the largest lynx, and the only one to primarily take ungulate prey, although they rely on smaller species where ungulates are less abundant. Lynx kill ungulates ranging in size from the 15 kg musk deer to 220 kg adult male red deer, but show a preference for the smaller ungulate species, such as Roe Deer, Chamois, Reindeer and Musk Deer. Occasionally, Lynx also hunt foxes, hares, marmots, wild pigs, beavers, birds or domestic animals such as sheep and goats, or, in Scandinavia, semi-domestic reindeer. In European Russia and western Siberia, where Roe Deer are absent,Mmountain Hares and tetraonids form the basic prey base. Hares and birds are important prey also in other Central Asian regions where habitats are dryer and less forested (Breitenmoser and Breitenmoser-Wrsten 2008, Matyushkin and Vaisfeld 2003).
Home range size varies widely from 100 to over 1,000 km (Breitenmoser and Breitenmoser-Wrsten 2008). Home ranges averaged 248 km for males (n = 5) and 133 km for females (n = 5) in a radio telemetry study in Polands Bialowieza forest (Schmidt et al. 1997). Average home range sizes in Switzerland were 90 km for females and 150 km for male Lynx. Male home ranges generally enclose 1-2 female territories (Breitenmoser and Breitenmoser-Wrsten 2008). Densities are typically 1-3 adults per 100 km, although higher densities of up to 5/100 km have been reported from Eastern Europe and parts of Russia and lower densities of 0.3/100 km from Scandinavia (Jedrzejewski et al. 1996, Schmidt et al. 2011, Sunde et al. 2000). In the Saihanwula nature reserve in Inner Mongolia the density was estimated at 1.7-2.1/100 km by camera trapping and track survey (Bao et al. 2014). In Turkey, a density of 4.2/100 km has been estimated for the Ciglikara Nature Reserve, Antalya. However, this high Lynx density may be temporarily and may decline with major prey (hare) fluctuation (Avgan et al. 2014).
Eurasian lynx live in a variety of habitats. In Europe and Siberia they inhabit forested areas with dense ungulate populations. In Central Asia they are found in open, thinly wooded areas and rocky hills and mountains in desert regions. They are also found in rocky areas and thick woodlands throughout the northern slopes of the Himalayas.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: taiga ; desert or dune ; forest ; scrub forest ; mountains
Other Habitat Features: agricultural
- 2009. "IUCN RED LIST" (On-line). Accessed November 08, 2009 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/12519/0.
- 2009. "WWF" (On-line). Accessed November 10, 2009 at http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/finder/eurasianlynx/eurasianlynx.html.
- Nowell, K., P. Jackson. 1996. Wild Cats: Status survey and conservation action plan. Cambridge, U.K.: IUCN: The Burlington Press.
Like other members of the family Felidae, Eurasian lynx are strict carnivores, consuming only meat. Other Lynx species are specialized rabbit and hare hunters. Eurasian lynx prey primarily on ungulates. Small ungulates such as roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), musk deer (g. Moschus species) and chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) comprise most of their diet, but they have been known to prey on ungulates as large as elk and caribou in winter due to the prey’s vulnerability in deep snow. Eurasian lynx also supplement their diet with red foxes, rabbits and hares, rodents and birds. They kill prey up to 3 to 4 times their size and consume 1 to 2 kg of meat per day. Eurasian lynx stalk their prey from the cover of thick vegetation, using stealth to get close without being seen. They then pounce on prey, delivering a fatal bite to the neck or biting down on the snout until the animal suffocates. The kill is then taken to thick cover or fallen logs to be eaten in privacy. Prey that is not eaten right away is cached to be consumed later.
Eurasian lynx occur sympatrically with three other large predators throughout most of their range: grey wolves, brown bears, and wolverines. Brown bears are mainly omnivorous and don't compete strongly with lynx for prey. Where wolves and and Eurasian lynx co-occur, they generally coexist peacefully with neither of the two showing avoidance or attraction. This has been attributed to differences in primary prey selection and hunting styles. Grey wolves are larger than Eurasian lynx and primarily hunt red deer, while Eurasian lynx focus on roe deer and smaller ungulates. Eurasian lynx are solitary hunters, concealing themselves in thick vegetation, fallen logs, and snow to ambush prey. Conversely, grey wolves are pack hunters and found in a wider variety of habitats. Competition between these species may occur in areas where roe deer, red deer, or other ungulate prey is scarce. This may cause changes in hunting behavior and has contributed to sporadic intraguild predation of Eurasian lynx by grey wolves.
Animal Foods: birds; mammals
Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)
Eurasian lynx are the third largest carnivores throughout most of their range. As such they have the ability to influence the population sizes, distribution, and behaviors of some prey species. Ungulates make up the majority of their diets and they can consume 1 to 2.5 kg of meat per day. In regions where game hunting isn't practiced, Eurasian lynx may play a role in controlling deer populations. They can kill from 10 to 40% of roe deer, red deer, and chamois populations annually. This is highly dependent on lynx density, ungulate density, and other causes of ungulate mortality. The greatest impact is usually seen in roe deer and chamois populations. Eurasian lynx are also affected by numerous internal and external parasites.
- Diphyllobothrium latum
- Trichinella species
- Taenia laticollis
- Taenia hydatigena
- Taenia taeniaeformis
- Toxocara cati
- Molinari-Jobin, A., . Molinari,, C. Breitenmoser-Würsten, U. Breitenmoser. 2002. Significance of lynx Lynx lynx predation for roe deer Capreolus capreolus and chamois Rupicapra rupicapra mortality in the Swiss Jura Mountains. Widlife Biology, 8/2: 109-115.
Eurasian lynx have no natural predators, but there have been cases of intermittent killings by tigers, wolves, and wolverines.
- wolverines (Gulo gulo)
- grey wolves (Canis lupus)
- tigers (Panthera tigris)
Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic
Known prey organisms
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
Little is known about communication among Eurasian lynx. Their vocalizations are low and not often heard. They have keen eyesight and hearing, mainly used to locate prey and potential mates. Males and females mark their home territories with gland secretions and urine.
Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Eurasian lynx can survive up to 17 years in the wild and 24 years in captivity. Juvenile mortality rate is high.
Status: wild: 2 to 17 years.
Status: wild: 5 years.
Status: captivity: 24 (high) years.
Status: captivity: 26.8 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Eurasian lynx mating season takes place from February to April of each year. Each female is fertile only about three days during this time. Once a male and receptive female encounter each other, they follow each other for days, copulating many times a day. Once the female is no longer in estrus, the male will leave to find another mate. Females have only one mate per season.
Mating System: polygynous
Gestation lasts 67 to 74 days, with females giving birth in May. Breeding interval varies, depending on success of previous season. Females without a litter will breed every year, females with a litter will breed about every 3 years. Typically 2 to 3 cubs comprise a litter, although litter size can range from 1 to 5 kittens. Newborn cubs weigh 300 to 350g and are dependent on their mother for food and protection. They are weaned at 4 months and become independent at around 10 months. Females become sexually mature at 2 years of age and can remain so up to 14 years of age, whereas males mature at 3 years of age and can reproduce up to age 17.
Breeding interval: Eurasian lynx males breed once yearly. Females breed once a year when there is no litter, and every three years when they successfully breed.
Breeding season: Eurasian lynx breed from February to April.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 5.
Average number of offspring: 2 to 3.
Range gestation period: 67 to 74 days.
Average gestation period: 69 days.
Average weaning age: 4 months.
Average time to independence: 10 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 3 years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; induced ovulation ; viviparous
Average birth mass: 246.5 g.
Average number of offspring: 2.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
Sex: male: 1004 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 639 days.
Females find a safe den space for their kittens, as in a hollow log or crevice. Females nurse and protect their young until independence. Once the cubs are old enough to travel they accompany the mother on hunting trips to learn how to hunt for themselves. Males do not contribute to the care of offspring.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
- 2007. "Eurasian Lynx Online Information System for Europe" (On-line). Accessed November 19, 2009 at http://www.kora.ch/en/proj/elois/online/index.html.
- 2009. "WWF" (On-line). Accessed November 10, 2009 at http://www.panda.org/about_our_earth/species/eurasian_lynx/.
- Nowell, K., P. Jackson. 1996. Wild Cats: Status survey and conservation action plan. Cambridge, U.K.: IUCN: The Burlington Press.
- Valdmann, H., E. Moks, H. Talvik. 2004. Helminth Fauna of Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx) in Estonia. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 40(2): 356-360.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Lynx lynx
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Lynx lynx
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 11
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Listed as Least Concern given its wide range and stable populations in the north of Europe and in large parts of its range in Asia (Bao 2010, Bersenev et al. 2011, Kaczenskyet al.2012, Moqanaki et al. 2010, Matyushkin and Vaisfeld 2003). A recent assessment of the status of Eurasian Lynx (hereafter just Lynx) in Europe shows that some isolated subpopulations remain Critically Endangered or Endangered (Kaczensky et al. 2012).
- 2008Least Concern (LC)
- 2002Near Threatened (NT)
- 1996Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
Habitat loss due to deforestation, prey loss due to game hunting, and illegal hunting and trapping for the fur trade are the main threats to Lynx lynx. Commercial hunting is illegal in all countries except Russia and Eurasian lynx are protected in Afghanistan, where all hunting and trading is illegal. In the 1960’s and 70’s, some Eurasian lynx were re-introduced into Germany, France, Austria, and Switzerland. These populations have been successful in some areas.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix ii
State of Michigan List: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
Most Lynx populations in Europe are generally stable. However, status and trend varies greatly within the European range (Kaczensky et al. 2012, Schmidt et al. 2011). The Balkan and the Vosges-Palatinian subpopulations have decreased and the Jura and the Scandinavian ones have increased (Kaczensky et al. 2012). The autochthonous populations in north and east Europe (Scandinavian, Karelian, Baltic and Carpathian) number each around 2,000 individuals. All the re-introduced populations are of small size (less than 200 or even less than 100 animals) and are classified as Endangered (Alpine, Dinaric and Jura subpopulation) or Critically Endangered (Bohemian-Bavarian, Vosges-Palatinian subpopulation) (Kaczensky et al. 2012). The European population with the greatest conservation concern is the Critically Endangered Balkan Lynx subpopulation estimated at only 40-50 individuals (Kaczensky et al. 2013, Melovski 2012). In the Ukraine the Lynx is considered to be decreasing (Bashta and Dykyy 2013, Shkvyria and Shevchenko 2009). Its population in the Carpathian region has been estimated at 350-400 and the one in the Polysya region in the north of the country at 80-100 animals. Detailed status and trend information on European subpopulations can be found on http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/conservation/species/carnivores/conservation_status.htm.
Although a large portion of the Lynxs range is in Asia, status and trend in many countries are poorly understood due to insufficient data. The following information has been gathered through a questionnaire sent to range country representatives (see supplementary material). In Russia the Lynx is thought to be stable in some regions and to be decreasing in others (Bersenev et al. 2011). The Russian Lynx population has been estimated at around 22,510 individuals in 2013 (Monitoring and supervision centre for game animals and their habitats (CentrOkhotControl)). The numbers are based on different methods in different regions, but mainly on winter tracking plus expert corrections. More accurate censuses are performed in regions with lower lynx densities than in areas where they are abundant. Lynx has been estimated to number 1,940 in the Central region, 4,110 in North-western region, 680 in the Northern Caucasus, 40 in the Southern region, 2,400 in the Volga region, 1,070 in the Ural, 6,390 in the Siberian region and 5,890 in the Russian Far East for 2013 (Monitoring and supervision centre for game animals and their habitats (CentrOkhotControl) and with help of V.V. Rozhnov 2014). In Mongolia the Lynx population was estimated at around 10,000 (Matyushkin and Vaisfeld 2003). The Lynx population in China has been estimated at around 27,000 by the State Forestry Administration in 2009 and is listed as Vulnerable (Wang 1998, Bao 2010). Its population and range is thought to be increasing in Inner Mongolia.
In Afghanistan the presence of the Lynx has been confirmed by camera trap surveys in the Wakhan District of Badakhshan and in the Northern Plateau, Yakawlang District of Bamyan provinces, since 2006. In Armenia the lynx is thought to be a common species, especially in some protected areas but the population trend is unknown. In Azerbaijan Lynx populations are thought to be stable in the Talysh Mountains, Zangezur Ridge and the foothills of the Greater Caucasus, and in arid and semi-arid landscapes around the Mingechaur Water Reservoir. In Bhutan the lynx is thought to occur in the Jigme Dorji National Park and Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, however, no concrete evidence exists (Wangchuck et al. 2004). The Lynx is proposed as Vulnerable in Iran (Moqanaki et al. 2010). In Iraq, except a Lynx sighting in 2006 in Darbandikhan and the first confirmed record of Eurasian Lynx in 2011 from the Barzan area, there are no recent observations (Barzani 2013). The population in Kyrgyzstan is thought to be stable but not very high and classified as Near Threatened (Sludsky 1978). The Lynx is thought to be decreasing in Nepal and classified as Vulnarable (Jnawali et al. 2011), but there is no hard evidence. The only indication for its presence comes from the northwestern district of Humla, from the Dhorpatan hunting reserve and upper Mustand area in the Annapurna conservation area in 1996 (Fox 1985). Jnawali et al. (2011) maps the distribution of the lynx additionally in the Rara National Park and Shey-Phoksundo National Park. The Lynx might be declining in Pakistan and its long-term survival is not assured, although it is listed as Least Concern (Sheikh and Molur 2004). In 2003 the Lynx population in northern Pakistan has been estimated at 80-120 animals and the permanently occupied area in the whole country at around 25,252 km (Sheikh and Molur 2004). In Tajikistan the Lynx is considered as rare and is mainly found in the southern part of the country in the Darvaz range, westernmost part of the Pamir Mountains, the Ghunda valley and the Wakhan valley. In Uzbekistan, the Lynx is considered Vulnerable and thought to be decreasing but seems to be stable in the Gissar Nature Reserve, with an estimated population of 130 in 2013.
In Asia the major threats are habitat fragmentation and loss mainly due to livestock farming, infrastructure development, resource extraction and logging activities, and poaching, mainly as retaliatory killing due to livestock depredation or for the fur trade (Kretser et al. 2012, Mousavi et al. 2014). In areas where livestock is the primary livelihood source, the conflict is even enhanced. Other threats include accidental mortality through trapping or dogs and human disturbance (Bao 2010). In Russia the Lynx is still important for the skin market and the pelt industry. In Azerbaijan, Mongolia and Pakistan prey base depletion due to poaching is considered a major threat (Clark et al. 2006, Ud Din and Nawaz 2010). In Turkey and Nepal low population size is assumed to be problematic.
Poor management structures and insufficient law enforcement and the lack of capacity and funding facilitate poaching and lead to higher habitat fragmentation, aggravating the situation of the Lynx (Shkvyria 2012).
Since 2006, a programme for the recovery of the Balkan Lynx is being implemented and range wide conservation strategies were developed (Kaczensky et al. 2012). In several European range states, prevention measures to counteract livestock depredation are in place and awareness has increased but measures for managing conflicts with hunters are still missing (Kaczensky et al. 2012).
There is a need for improved monitoring activities in the Carpathian and Dinaric Lynx populations in Europe and many parts of Asia (a.o. Ud Din and Nawaz 2010, Kaczensky et al. 2012). Connectivity between small isolated European lynx populations should be enhanced to allow gene flow and prevent inbreeding depression (Breitenmoser-Wrsten and Obexer Ruff 2003). In Italy and Austria a reinforcement project has started to address the threat of genetic deterioration due to low population size and lacking connectivity by translocating Lynx. Detailed recommendations for the conservation of the European subpopulations are given in http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/conservation/species/carnivores/conservation_status.htm.
Genetic monitoring is also needed in parts of Asia to detect the impact of habitat fragmentation on the genetic diversity of the Lynx (Bao 2010).
In some parts of its range awareness for the species was enhanced as for example in Iraq, where stakeholders, students and social media were engaged to stop illegal hunting or as in Afghanistan, where public awareness has been raised among local communities, particularly in Badakhsahn and Bamyan Provinces, wildlife laws have been enforced in some areas and the Border Police and Customs office in certain parts of the country have been trained to control fur trade. In China the patrolling by local police was strengthened and a nature reserve network was established to expand suitable Lynx habitat. In Iran a preliminary status assessment of the lynx was conducted from 2006-2009 and a country wide status assessment in 2010-2012 (Moqanaki et al. 2010, Mousavi et al. in press). In Pakistan measures specific for carnivore conservation have been introduced which benefit also the Lynx. In 2010 a project focusing on lynx research and conservation education has been implemented and the protected area network has been increased. In Tajikistan measures adopted to reduce conflicts with Snow Leopards are working for Lynx as well.
From most range states there is only sparse information on the lynx available. Data on population trend is mainly missing. There is a need for management improvement, better monitoring and more research on Lynx ecology and distribution in Asia to increase the knowledge on the population status and trend, as well as on threats and conservation needs (Moqanaki et al. 2010, Bao 2010).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Throughout most of their range, Eurasian lynx are the third largest predators. They typically do not attack humans unless injured, trapped, or ill. Humans sometimes complain that Eurasian lynx reduce game abundance and kill livestock and domestic animals. In most European countries programs have been set up for farmers and herders to compensate them for losses.
Eurasian lynx came close to being endangered in the early 1900's as a result of hunting for fur. Currently, commercial hunting is illegal in all countries except Russia and Eurasian lynx are protected in Afghanistan, where all hunting and trading is illegal. However, illegal fur trades occur in some countries. In regions where game hunting isn't practiced, Eurasian lynx may play a role in controlling deer populations.
Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material
The Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) is a medium-sized cat native to European and Siberian forests, Central Asia and East Asia. It is also known as the European lynx, common lynx, the northern lynx, and the Siberian or Russian lynx. 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 largest lynx species, ranging in length from 80 to 130 cm (31 to 51 in) and standing about 60–75 cm (24–30 in) at the shoulder. The tail measures 11 to 24.5 cm (4.3 to 9.6 in) in length. Males usually weigh from 18 to 30 kg (40 to 66 lb) and females weigh 8 to 21 kg (18 to 46 lb). Male lynxes from Siberia, where the species reaches the largest body size, can weigh up to 38 kg (84 lb) or reportedly even 45 kg (99 lb). It has powerful, relatively long legs, with large webbed and furred paws that act like snowshoes. It also possesses a short "bobbed" tail with an all-black tip, black tufts of hair on its ears, and a long grey-and-white ruff.
During the summer, the Eurasian lynx has a relatively short, reddish or brown coat, which tends to be more brightly coloured in animals living at the southern end of its range. In winter, however, this is replaced by a much thicker coat of silky fur that varies from silver-grey to greyish-brown. The underparts of the animal, including the neck and chin, are white at all times of the year. The fur is almost always marked with black spots, although the number and pattern of these are highly variable. Some animals also possess dark brown stripes on the forehead and back. Although spots tend to be more numerous in animals from southern populations, Eurasian lynx with heavily spotted fur may exist close to others with plain fur.
Eurasian lynx make a range of vocalizations, but are generally silent outside of the breeding season. They have been observed to mew, hiss, growl, and purr, and, like domestic cats, will "chatter" at prey that is just out of reach. Mating calls are much louder, consisting of deep growls in the male, and loud "meow"-like sounds in the female.
Eurasian lynx are secretive, and because the sounds they make are very quiet and seldom heard, their presence in an area may go unnoticed for years. Remnants of prey or tracks on snow are usually observed long before the animal is seen.
Lynx preys largely on small to fairly large sized mammals and birds. Among the recorded prey items for the species are hares, rabbits, marmots, squirrels, dormice, other rodents, mustelids (such as martens), grouse, red foxes, wild boar, chamois, young moose, roe deer, red deer, reindeer and other ungulates. Although taking on larger prey presents a risk to the animal, the bounty provided by killing them can outweigh the risks. The Eurasian lynx thus prefers fairly large ungulate prey, especially during winter when small prey is less abundant. They are the only Lynx species in which ungulates provide a great portion of their diet in relation to lagomorphs or rodents. Where common, roe deer appear to be the preferred prey species for the lynx. Even where roe deer are quite uncommon, the deer are still quantitatively the favored prey species, though in summer smaller prey and occasional domestic sheep are eaten more regularly. In parts of Finland, introduced white-tailed deer are eaten mostly regularly. In some areas of Poland and Austria, red deer are the preferred prey and, in Switzerland, chamois may be locally favored. They will also feed on carrion when it is available. Adult lynx require 1.1 to 2 kilograms (2.4 to 4.4 lb) of meat per day, and may take several days to fully consume some of their larger prey.
The main method of hunting is stalking, sneaking and jumping on prey, although they are also ambush predators when conditions are suitable. In winter certain snow conditions make this harder and the animal may be forced to switch to larger prey. Eurasian lynx hunt using both vision and hearing, and often climb onto high rocks or fallen trees to scan the surrounding area. A very powerful predator, these lynxes have successfully killed adult deer weighing to at least 150 kg (330 lb).
The Eurasian lynx inhabits rugged forested country providing plenty of hideouts and stalking opportunities. Depending on the locality, this may include forest-steppe, boreal forest, and montane forest. In the more mountainous parts of their range, Eurasian lynx will descend into the lowlands in winter, following their prey, and avoiding the deepest snows. They tend to be less common where wolves are abundant, and wolves have been reported to attack and even eat lynx. In Russian forests, the most important predators of the Eurasian lynx are the gray wolf and the wolverine. Wolves kill and eat lynxes that fail to escape into trees. Lynx populations decrease when wolves appear in a region and are likely to take smaller prey where wolves are active. Wolverines are perhaps the most dogged of competitors for kills, often stealing lynx kills. Lynxes tend to actively avoid encounters with wolverines, but may sometimes fight them if defending kittens. Sometimes, Siberian tigers have also preyed on lynxes, as evidenced by examination of tiger stomach contents. Lynx compete for food with the predators described above, and also with the red fox, eagle owls, golden eagles, wild boar (which scavenge from lynx kills), and in the southern part of its range, the snow leopard and leopard as well.
Although they may hunt during the day when food is scarce, the Eurasian lynx is mainly nocturnal or crepuscular, and spends the day sleeping in dense thickets or other places of concealment. It lives solitarily as an adult.
The hunting area of Eurasian lynx can be anything from 20 to 450 km2 (8 to 174 sq mi), depending on the local availability of prey. Males tend to hunt over much larger areas than females, which tend to occupy exclusive, rather than overlapping, hunting ranges. The Eurasian lynx can travel up to 20 km (12 mi) during one night, although about half this distance is more typical. They patrol regularly throughout all parts of their hunting range, using scent marks to indicate their presence to other individuals. As with other cats, the scent marks may consist of faeces, urine, or scrape marks, with the former often being left in prominent locations along the boundary of the hunting territory.
The mating season for Eurasian lynx lasts from January to April. The female typically comes into oestrus only once during this period, lasting from four to seven days, but if the first litter is lost, a second period of oestrus is common. Unlike the closely related Canada lynx, the Eurasian species does not appear to be able to control its reproductive behaviour based on prey availability. This may be because, feeding on a larger range of prey than the Canada lynx, rarity of suitable prey is a less common occurrence.
Pregnant females construct dens in secluded locations, often protected by overhanging branches or tree roots. The den may be lined with feathers, deer hair, and dry grass to provide bedding for the young. Gestation lasts from 67 to 74 days, and results in the birth of from one to four kittens. At birth, Eurasian lynx kittens weigh 240 to 430 grams (8.5 to 15.2 oz) and are blind and helpless. They initially have plain, greyish-brown fur, attaining the full adult colouration around eleven weeks of age. The eyes open after ten to twelve days. The kittens begin to take solid food at six to seven weeks, when they begin to leave the den, but are not fully weaned for five or six months.
The den is abandoned two to three months after the kittens are born, but the young typically remain with their mother until they are around ten months of age (the start of the next breeding season). Eurasian lynx reach sexual maturity at two or three years, and have lived for twenty one years in captivity.
Status and range
- Central Asia: The Eurasian lynx is native to the Chinese provinces of Sinkiang, Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Shaanxi, as well as to northern slopes of Iran's Alborz Mountains, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan.
- Nepal: Most of northern areas of country.
- Russia: More than 90% of all Eurasian Lynx live in the forests of Siberia. They are distributed from the western borders of Russia to the Pacific island of Sakhalin.
- Turkey: Although exact numbers are not known, the Eurasian Lynx are found in most of Turkey's forests but are thought to have been in decline. Various government bodies are responsible for wildlife in Turkey and before 1990, hunting of Lynx was uncontrolled. Since then hunting has been restricted and there are 83 game conservation and breeding areas where hunting is prohibited. This has had a positive effect on their conservation in Turkey. Research carried out in Kars have discovered a new breeding population in Sarıkamış. However, threats from legal and illegal logging as well as illegal poaching exists.
Once the Eurasian lynx was quite common in all of Europe. By the middle of the 19th century, it had become extirpated 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 lynx live in this mountain range in the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia. It is the largest contiguous Eurasian Lynx population west of the Russian border.
- Romania: over 2000 lynx live in Romania, including most of the Carpathian population. However, some experts consider these official population numbers to be overestimated. Limited hunting is permitted but the population is stable.
- Balkan peninsula: The Balkan lynx subspecies is found in Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria and possibly Greece.[need quotation to verify] They can be found in remote mountainous regions of the Balkans, with the largest numbers in remote hills of western Macedonia, eastern Albania and northern Albania. 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. The name of Lynkestis, a Macedonian tribe, is translated as "Land of the Lynx". 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. The animal was declared extinct in Bulgaria in 1985, but sightings continued well into the 1990s. In 2006 an audio recording of a lynx mating call was made in the Strandzha mountain range in the southeast. Two years later an ear-marked individual was accidentally shot near Belogradchik in the northwest, and a few months later a mounted trap camera caught a glimpse of another individual. Further camera sightings followed in Osogovo as well as Strandzha, confirming that the animal has returned to the country. A thorough examination on the subject is yet to be made available.Template:Zlatanova & al. 2009
- 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 in order to return some natural state of control to the problem of over-population of deer, which currently have no natural predators left in 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 lynx. 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 lynx from Slovakia were released in the Kočevski forest. Today, lynx 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 lynx. In the three countries, the Eurasian lynx is listed as an endangered species and protected by law. Realistic population estimates are 40 lynx in Slovenia, 40–60 in Croatia, and more than 50 in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Croatian massif Risnjak in Risnjak National Park probably got its name from the Croatian word for lynx, ris.
- Estonia: There are 900 individuals in Estonia according to a 2001 estimate. Although 180 lynx were legally hunted in Estonia in 2010, the country still has the highest known density of the species in Europe.
- Fennoscandia: Fennoscandian lynx were close to extinction in the 1930s–1950s but increased again thanks to protection. In the meantime protective hunting for lynx has been legalized again. The numbers are still on a slow increase. Lynx is the only non-domestic feline in Scandinavia.
- Finland: about 2200–2300 individuals, according to a 2009 estimate. Lynx population in Finland have been increasing every year since 1991, and is estimated to be nowadays larger than ever before. Limited hunting is permitted. In 2009 the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry gave a permit for hunting of 340 lynx individuals.
- 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 lynx births was reached in 2007, with 69 to 74 registered lynx born. The population was estimated at 409–439 specimens.
- Sweden: Sweden had an estimated population of about 1400 lynx in 2006 and 1250 in 2011. The hunt is controlled by government agencies. Hunters who wish to hunt for lynx must register for the so-called "protective hunt," which takes place in March. The hunt may only take place if the population has an annual increase of 300 animals 300 birth situations. The government has allowed the requirement to fall to an increase of 250 lynx under "certain circumstances" and still permit the hunt. Even though the goal is rarely met, the hunt is always approved. This has led to a steady decrease of the number of lynx in Sweden and protests from larger non-governmental organisations such as The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation. Only a few animals are allowed to be shot in each region, depending on the size of the local lynx population 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 the National Veterinary Institute. The hunter 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 lynx 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 and has moved to the French Alps from Switzerland.
- 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 lynx immigrating from neighboring France and the Czech Republic. In 2002 the first birth of wild lynx on German territory was announced, following a litter from a pair of lynx 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 which have escaped or were released to the wild, or may be lynx moving in from Germany, since several of the sightings reported during the 1980s and 1990s were around the Reichswald area.
- 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 individuals from the lynx populations in the Eifel region of Germany or the Vosges region of France, or possibly also illegal introductions by hunters.
- Poland: The Mammal Research Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences has information about "at least 128 lynx", 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 live 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. Swiss lynx also migrated to Austria, where they had also been exterminated. A higher proportion are killed by human causes than by infectious diseases.
- Italy: The Lynx was considered extinct since the early 20th century but over the past 30 years a partial recolonization of the Alps, from the Swiss and Slovenian populations, is occurring. Claims in 2009 of the existence of a very small population in central Italy proved to be unsubstantiated.
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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