Brief fact sheet on the Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx)

Distribution

© Gunther Willinger
To enlarge the map please click on the image. © Gunther Willinger

The Eurasian Lynx has a very wide distribution area reaching from Western Europe to Central Asia. In Europe it is found in all climate zones and lives at altitudes that range from sea level up to the tree line in mountainous areas. The original distribution area of the lynx has however shrunk severely over the last centuries. In Europe there are only remnant populations left. Larger populations exist in the Baltic and Scandinavian countries.


The Balkan lynx is a rare subspecies of the Eurasian Lynx. In all probability there are less than 50 of them left making the Balkan Lynx one of the rarest cats on earth. Its distribution area is limited to the south west of the Balkans. Here it is faced with habitat destruction and persecution which includes the hunting down of its prey. The last intact habitats for the Balkan lynx are probably not solely to be found in the species-rich forests of Macedonia: it is possible that the course of the Green Belt between Albania and Macedonia and between Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo also provides habitats for the lynx.

Notes on the map
Data source: Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe (LCIE) and EuroNatur's own surveys.
The boundaries marked here only indicate the core distribution areas as far as at present known. Lone individuals and smaller populations may be found outside these areas.

Habitat

The habitat of the lynx is one of wide-spreading forest land offering it sufficient cover and enough prey. Lynxes are solitary hunters with a very wide radius of action of up to a hundred square kilometres. They only move to conquer fresh terrain if these are directly connected to their existing ones – in this they differ from wolves who can settle in completely new areas. Unbroken stretches of country and plentiful food are preconditions for the survival of lynxes.

Physical features

Lynxes are long-legged, medium-sized wildcats with striking tufts of dark hair on the tips of their ears, a ruff of well-developed side whiskers, powerful fangs and a short tail. They can have a body length of 80 to 120 centimetres, shoulder height of 50 to 70 and a weight on average of 20 to 25 kilos, with the female in general being lighter than the male. Lynxes have a goldish to red-brown coat with dark spots. Chest and belly fur is cream-white in colour. The typical footprint of a fully-grown lynx, with a diameter of 6 to 9 centimetres, is around three times as large as that of a domestic cat.

Reproduction

The mating season is February to March. The loud calls of the lynx to a prospective partner can sometimes be heard during this time and they sound similar to the barking of foxes and deer. Outside this phase male and female avoid each other. Mating usually takes place in March. The female gives birth to her young in a protected place after a pregnancy of around 70 days at the end of May or in early June. There are usually three to four young in a litter and the female raises them on her own. When the young are three months old they accompany their mother hunting and they stay with her till the next mating after which they seek out their own territory.

Diet

The lynx is a pure carnivore and hunts smaller cloven-hooved animals such as deer, chamois, reindeer and musk deer. A stalk-and-ambush hunter he usually hunts in the evening when the prey is also active. If a surprise attack fails the lynx does not follow the prey. In attack, it leaps onto the prey sinking the claws of its fore-paws into its flesh and kills it with one bite at the throat. If it has killed a deer or chamois and is not disturbed it will come back on several nights until it has completely devoured the prey. Only the large bones, the head, the pelt and the innards remain. A lynx needs to kill one deer or a chamois a week, which means around 60 animals a year.

Degree of endangerment and conservation status

In nearly the whole of central Europe for 200 years the lynx had been considered extinct. Since 1970 however it has been re-settled in Switzerland, Slovenia, France, Italy, the Czech Republic and Austria. In Germany regular appearance of lynxes with offspring are confined to the Harz and the Bavarian Forest on the borders to the Czech Republic and Austria. And even in these populations it is not clear whether they will prove able to survive. Reports of lynx sightings in other areas are only of lone individuals.

For most areas of Germany the species is not expected to return unaided - particularly as there have so far been no case of lynxes appearing without active measures taken by humans. Without such aid these lithe predators will not be able to reconquer Germany as their habitat in the long term.
The Balkan lynx population is probably no larger than 50 individuals which makes it the most endangered indigenous lynx population of our continent.


In Europe the lynx is protected by the following three directives:

  • The Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of the Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which monitors the trade in wild animals and plants.
  • The Bern Convention, an agreement for the preservation and protection of European wild plants and animals and their habitats.
  • The FFH directive (Flora-Fauna-Habitat Directive 92/43/EEC) which regulates the designation and conservation of habitats and wildlife and must be implemented by all EU member states in national law.

Protecting lynxes in Europe

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Balkan lynx - the last few of its kind

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Balkan lynx recovery programme

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