Luchs im Wald

Species Lynx

The lynx as an apex predator is indication of an intact environment.

The cat family are very well represented in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species; in fact almost 70% of the 36 cat species have been included since it’s re-evaluation in 2007-2008 and almost half of the Felidae (the cat family) are in the three highest threat categories (Nowell, K. 2009). Ongoing habitat destruction and poaching are the main reasons for population decline.

The European continent is home to three of the existing 36 cat species: The European Wildcat, the Iberian Lynx and the Eurasian Lynx; with the Iberian lynx being the only cat species listed in the highest threat category of “critically endangered”.

Lynxes can only be found on the northern hemisphere; its habitat ranges from North America, Northern Europe, Switzerland, Spain, Romania and Turkey through to Russia and China. In Germany the lynx has been extinct for over a hundred years; however reintroduction projects are attempting to repopulate the Harz Mountains and the Bavarian Forest with Eurasian Lynx.  Thus, with a little luck, we should again have the opportunity to watch the lynx right in our backyard.

Conversely, the lynx is not met with enthusiasm by everyone. Some people are prejudiced against the lynx or are apprehensive about presence of this silent-pawed predator; especially in areas where humans and lynxes compete for the same resources.

Conflicts are inevitable, however it must not be forgotten that the presence of the lynx as an apex predator is a strong indication of a healthy, balanced ecosystem and all effort to preserve this must be supported.

Four species belong to the genus Lynx: the Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx), the Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus), the Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis) and the Bobcat (Lynx rufus).

 

Click on the pictures above to learn more about the lynxes!

The Eurasian lynx

Eurasischer Luchs
Eurasischer Luchs

The Eurasian Lynx is native to northern European and Siberian forests and plains. Along with the wolf and the brown bear the Eurasian Lynx is one of the largest carnivores living on the European continent. The Eurasian Lynx, also called Northern Lynx, is the biggest of the lynxes, ranging in length between 80 and 120 centimetres. The tail of the Eurasian Lynx is rather short in comparison to other cats. Characteristics of the Eurasian Lynx are black tufts of hair on its ears and large furred paws which in winter act like snowshoes. The colour of the lynx’s coat can vary depending on the seasons; in winter the coat has a greyish-silver colour and is relatively long and in summer the coat tends to be more brightly coloured changing between a brownish-red and a grey. Generally the black or brown spots are more intense in the summer months, although the pattern and number of spots can be highly variable between individuals.

 

As with other lynxes, the Eurasian lynx usually hunt, usually nocturnally, by stalking, sneaking and jumping on prey. Their most common prey includes rabbits, rodents, hares, foxes, roe deer and reindeer, of which they need up to three kilograms of meat per day (adult).

By the middle of the 19th century the Eurasian Lynx had been extirpated in most countries of Western and Central Europe, but resettlement projects ensured that lynxes were successfully reintroduced to the forests and mountains of Germany, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and France. The most recent approximation of the population size of the Eurasian Lynx was 7000 individuals, with the highest densities found in the remote regions of Romania, the Carpathian Mountains and Finland.

However, intensive farming in Central and Western Europe plays a decisive role in whether or not the Eurasian Lynx will again be a permanent resident in our forests. We must not see the Lynx as a threat; rather we should accept this wild cat as an important part of the ecosystem. Only then the Lynx will be able to regain its original habitat.

The Iberian lynx

Iberischer Luchs
Iberischer Luchs

Time is rapidly running out for the Iberian Lynx. If the conservation initiatives are not successful in working together to pool resources and secure wild areas with abundant prey and if they are not successful in changing the negative public opinion into one of support, then the Iberian Lynx will disappear from planet Earth. 10.000 years after the extinction of the saber-toothed cat the Iberian Lynx is going to be the next wild cat to die out. 

In the 19th century the Iberian lynx was distributed over the entire Iberian Peninsula. In the 1960s approximately 3000 Lynxes were still living in Spain and Portugal. Nowadays the Iberian Lynx is listed as a critically endangered species; in 2002 estimates put the population size as low as 200 individuals.

The cutting and burning of the Mediterranean grasslands, holm oaks and cork oaks as well as the intensive farming and irrigation in Spain and Portugal has deprived the Iberian Lynx of it natural habitat. Additionally the decline of its most common prey, the rabbit (due to myxomatosis), has had a devastating effect on lynx populations. In Portugal the Iberian Lynx is extinct already. The only remaining breeding populations are to be found in the Donana National park and in the Sierra de Andujar in Andalusia, both of which are in Spain.

The colour of the coat varies between a brownish-yellow and grey and has very characteristic leopard-like spots; furthermore the coat is notably shorter than in other lynxes. Thus the Iberian Lynx is well adapted to its environment and the hot and dry climate in Spain.

Like all other lynxes the Iberian Lynx features the dark tufts of hair on its ears which help to detect sources of sound. In comparison to the Eurasian Lynx the Iberian Lynx is rather short; the male is larger than the female, with an average weight of approximately 12 kilograms. 

Due to the fact that the Iberian Lynx is smaller than its northern relatives, it hunts only small animals. The European rabbit is its main prey, but it also hunts other small mammals, birds and reptiles at twilight. The Iberian Lynx needs about one kilogram of meat which equates to one rabbit per day; however a female that is rearing cubs will eat up to three rabbits per day.

Usually the cubs are born between the months of March and September. A litter consists of two to three cubs weighing between 200 to 250 grams and they remain with their mother until they are around 20 months old. The survival of the young lynxes depends on the rabbit population in their habitat. If the European rabbit disappears from the Iberian Peninsula, this will mean the certain end of the Iberian Lynx. The loss of the lynx´s habit has placed further pressure on the dwindling population of this highly endangered wild cat. Without the intervention of conservation breeding programs and the support of dedicated and committed individuals, this charismatic cat will lose its grip be lost to us forever.

The Canada lynx

Kanadaluchs
Kanadaluchs

The Canada Lynx is found in the northern part of the USA as well as in the forests of Canada and Alaska. With its dense silvery-brown coat the Canada Lynx is perfectly adapted to its environment. The Canada Lynx is smaller than its European cousin though it also shows the characteristic traits: a double-pointed beard, a short tail with a black tip and the long furry tufts on its ears. With its long legs with broad furred feet the Canada Lynx can travel through deep snow without difficulties.

The Canada Lynx will hunt every one to two days; feeding predominantly on rodents, birds, snowshoe hares and sometimes it even hunts deer.

The Canada lynx is trapped for its fur, but it also gets shot by hunters when getting too close to cattle or deer herds. In contrast to its relatives on the European continent the Canada Lynx is not yet listed as a threatened or critically endangered species.

The Bobcat

Rotluchs
Rotluchs

Just like the Canada Lynx the Bobcat is also living on the North American continent. It ranges from southern Canada to northern Mexico. The Bobcat is a very adaptable predator that inhabits not only forests and mountain regions, but also deserts, plains and swamplands - it can also be seen in the suburbs of larger cities.

Like all cats the Bobcat marks its territory with urine, droppings and by the help of scratch marks.

The Bobcat is smaller than the European Lynx and the Canada Lynx, but it is about twice as large as a domestic cat. The colour of the coat is variable depending on the region of the habitat; it is mostly greyish-brown with black streaks on the body and bobcats in the desert regions of the southwest have lighter coloured coats.

The Bobcat hunts animals of different sizes depending on its habitat; the most predominant prey are rodents, squirrels, birds, fish, small deer and even insects. 

Bobcats typically live to six or eight years of age; apart from man, they have virtually no natural enemies. The Bobcat has long been valued for fur and sport; in the southern parts of the United States the Bobcat is still extensively hunted. Nevertheless, the Bobcat maintains a high population due to its good adaptability to different environments. Up until today the Bobcat is not yet considered a threatened species.

05.03.2014The Eurasian lynx as a key to the conservation and future viability of the endangered Iberian lynx

Understanding the mechanisms which control reproduction in lynx is essential for their continued viability and effective conservation.   Read more …

11.01.2012Release of captive born lynxes

Yesterday three iberian lynxes borned in captivity - Hulla, Hispano and Hierba- were released in an aclimatization enclosure in Guadalmellato (Córdoba).   Read more …

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