I love the Eurasian lynx, for one reason, we have them on my continent! That’s amazing. For another thing I think my sister’s cat, Bob, looks a bit like a small one. Also, that Latin binomial is something to behold. Lynx lynx. So good they named it twice!
The Eurasian lynx is a medium sized cat that lives, funnily enough, across the Eurasian continent, distributed across Norway, Sweden, into Russia, down into the mountainous areas of Italy, Switzerland and France, across central Europe, in Turkey, down into Asia, the Tibetan Plateau and Himalayas etc. It is pretty widespread, to be honest, leading it to be a species of least concern to the IUCN.
Of course it is absent from much of the warmer, Southwest part of Europe that is inhabited by its close relative the Iberian lynx.
It’s quite a comparatively tall cat (around 60-75cm at the shoulder), with long legs relative to its body size, a stout, muscular body, especially the hind legs, and facially it was quite broad, square features, with tufty ears and what looks like a cute little cat-beard. Males can weigh over 20kg, with females tending to be a couple of kilos lighter.
The Siberian population grows much larger.
They live mainly in mountainous or boreal forests, so naturally rabbit, hare, deer etc. are all on the menu. Across parts of their ranges they may also eat moose, boar, reindeer etc. They are very generalist feeders, seeming to exhibit little preference for one prey or another.
Their population in Asia has also been known to eat pika! A species we have talked about before, who are often persecuted and poisoned with potential knock-on effects to the health of the lynx!
Naturally their opportunism and generalist feeding preference puts them in conflict with livestock farmers because they have been known to nick the odd sheep.
They are a crepuscular (twilight) or nocturnal (night) hunter, although they have been observed hunting during the day, especially during lean times.
They are also mostly solitary, with a potentially huge home range – hundreds of square-kilometres in size have been observed.
Given their medium size and their territory they are not an apex predator. They coexist with wolves and bears and it is likely that they can be, and are eaten – particularly by wolves in their Russian habitat. Interestingly, though, evidence has been found of juvenile or weak wolves being eaten by lynx! How’s that for fearless generalism!? There have also been incidents of cannibalism spotted in Anatolia (Turkey).
They breed between winter and spring and give birth to beautiful little kittens that you just want to squish. They are genuinely amazing, pretty cats that have a wealth of worth in our world. They are also quite long-lived, taking a couple of years to reach sexual maturity and living over 20 years in the wild (making an estimated wild span of probably 14-18 years.)
The Eurasian lynx is another species proposed for reintroduction to the United Kingdom. In fact there is a pretty significant effort to get this gorgeous, shy and solitary hunter back onto the island.
RewildingBritain.org.uk believes the Eurasian lynx could thrive, particularly in areas of Scotland which are abundant in over-populous grazers like roe deer who have no natural predators and are so overabundant they have to be regularly culled by game wardens.
They only went extinct around a millennium ago, with habitat loss and hunting for their pelts or as persecution being the likely culprits. Europe, too, has had its population problems but an ecological effort on the continent helped to restore their numbers.
The fact is they are shy, rarely interact with humans, are scarcely known to attack humans, whilst they are known to take livestock this could be compensated for and, as I talked about when I discussed reintroducing wolves, the cascade of effects the introduction of a proper, large predator back into the UK ecosystems would cause would be hugely beneficial and could mean less time and financial investment in manually managing the land.
It’s the great thing about ecosystems, when they are in balance they have a habit of taking care of themselves.
So, I give my thumbs up and suggest we support a managed trial reintroduction of lynx to see how it goes. If it goes well, let’s get them back! I’m always happy to have more cat!
EVERYBODY WANTS TO READ A CAT! Catch up with our feline friends here!
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