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Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx)
The Eurasian lynx features less in our mythology and folklore than the wolf or bear, but amongst hunting and farming communities it has a reputation as a killer of both livestock and valuable game. It was relentlessly persecuted for centuries, until it became extinct in much of Europe by the middle of the 20th century.
Much of the lynx’s former forest habitat has now gone, but following legal protection and several reintroductions, its decline has been reversed and there are now small lynx populations in western and central Europe, with healthier numbers in northern Europe. Fragmentation of habitat and isolation of vulnerable populations remain a major threat .
What is a lynx?
The Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) is a medium sized cat with longish legs, short tail, tufted ears and a pronounced facial ruff. It has a yellowish brown coat with spots on its legs and often the body as well. Adults weigh between 12-35kg; females are smaller than males. Body size is around 80cm-1.3m in length and 60-75cm high at the shoulder.
Where are lynx found?
The lynx was once present throughout Europe, except the Iberian Peninsula, where it is replaced by the critically endangered Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus), and is one of the widest ranging cat species. There are currently around 8,000 - 9,000 lynx in Europe; the main populations are in Scandinavia, the Baltic countries and the Carpathian Mountains, with smaller populations in the Balkans, France, Switzerland, Germany and Austria.
Reintroductions of lynx have been carried out in the Bavarian forest (Germany, Austria, Czech Republic), the Alps (France, Switzerland, Italy), the Jura Mountains (France, Switzerland), the Vosges Mountains (France), and Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. For up to date population statistics and a map, visit the Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe's Eurasian lynx page here.
Where do lynx live?
Lynx are now usually found in coniferous or mixed forest, but they are also at home in open woodland, above the tree line in mountainous regions, and on open tundra.
What do lynx eat?
Lynx specialise in hunting small ungulates, such as roe deer, reindeer and chamois. Rabbits and hares are also important prey species. Birds and larger ungulates, including red deer and wild boar are also taken. Lynx will also prey on livestock, including sheep, goats and poultry. Unlike other large carnivores, lynx only eat what they kill themselves, and do not scavenge on carcasses.
How do lynx live?
Lynx are solitary animals; both males and females hold territories ranging from 25 - 2,000 square kilometres, female territories tend to be smaller. Males share their home ranges with one or two females, and may also overlap with other males. Lynx are mainly active at dusk and at night, resting during the day.
Lynx can live up to 17 years in the wild, but most probably do not survive longer than 4-5 years. Main causes of mortality are traffic accidents, hunting and poaching, with rabies and parvovirus also a factor.
Sexually mature at around two years old, lynx mate between February - April, and litters of 1-5 kittens are born 67-74 days later. The young stay with their mother for the first year, before leaving to find their own territory.