The Eurasian lynx is the largest of all lynxes. Males are about 30% heavier than females. The appearance of each individual can vary greatly. It is one of two species of wild cats found in Poland.
The lynx living in Eurasia has very thick and soft fur, which varies depending on the season. In winter cats are lighter and fluffier to better blend in the background and protect themselves from frost. The colours that can appear on the fur are yellow, grey and red. The coat can be uniform or spotted with darker dots or rosettes in various sizes.
A characteristic feature of the lynx are longer hind legs. What’s more, for this species, the paw pads are covered with fur, which thickens in the cooler period. This provides the cats with more stability on the snow and warmth. Traces of lynx paws are difficult to confuse with house cat’s, because they are three times bigger.
Eurasian lynxes have very short tail ending in a tuft of black fur. Their long, pointed ears are finished with long black tuft of hair that supports hearing. Ears are also are covered with black fur at the back with a white dot at the centre point. Their mouths are surrounded by a ruff of fur, and the nose has a rounded shape. Eurasian lynxes eyes have round pupils.
Eurasian lynxes inhabit various kinds of forests, steppes and stony mountain sides. They live alone and are highly territorial animals. They communicate by smell and sound signals.
They are efficient hunters preying upon animals two or three times bigger than themselves. Eurasian lynxes use the available vegetation and terrain to sneak close to a herbivore. One victim is usually enough for a few days.
Eurasian lynxes hunt small and medium ungulates such as roe deer, reindeer and musk deer. Sometimes they will also hunt for the red deer, but most often the lynx chooses young specimens. In the case of the unavailability of larger victims, Eurasian lynxes also satisfy with smaller herbivores such as hares, wild boars, birds, and often farm animals like goats or sheep. It also happens that they hunt for a Tibetan fox, which is itself a predator.
Eurasian lynxes love to rest on high observation points and look for prey from there. They can even jump on a herbivore from a tree or rock, because they are agile and great climbers. Like most cats, they are loners except for the mating season.
Maturation in the case of Eurasian lynxes is quite unusual, because females can reproduce at the age of two, and males only about three years old.
The season of mating for these lynxes is the time from February to April. Then the cats become more active during the day and loudly proclaim their presence. The kitties are born in the warm months to gain strength before winter. Mother hides them in a lair lined with feathers and grass. Females are active in this field up to the age of fourteen, and males up to the sixteenth year.
Cats wanting to switch over to an adult diet, must follow their mother to the place where the prey is hidden, because the females do not bring meat to the lair. The young have to learn independency very quickly to survive because the mother leaves them before they finish their first year of life. Around the tenth month they have to cope alone, which unfortunately results in high mortality at 50%. This applies both to the year in which cubs stay with their mother and the year after becoming self-dependent. The female would be most likely in the next pregnancy at this time.
Beautiful fur gives lynxes not only charm, but also threats. Hunters kill these cats for their luxurious fur, which is of great value. The biggest threat occurs in Russia, where natural fur is still popular as a clothing.
The main threat to lynx is the loss of territories. The tree is a very popular resource, which works to the disadvantage of these cats. People also kill them in retaliation for attacking their breeding animals. However, there are programs that teach breeders how to protect their belongings against lynxes to minimize conflict.
Many of them are also killed in road accidents or traps for other animals. It also happens that dogs are the cause of the death of these wild cats.
In former times, Eurasian lynxes were considered to be pests and a reward was paid for each killed individual. This policy has caused the total displacement of the species from parts of its historical territory. Some of them have been reintroduced. Unfortunately, there is a low genetic diversity among these populations, which results in weak health of these cats.
Eurasian lynxes are one of the few species of wild cats that have a stable population. However, these groups are small and separated.
In many countries, including Poland, lynx hunting is legally prohibited. In Estonia and Norway people hunt lynxes for sport without restrictions, and in Latvia it is allowed, but controlled.
Eurasian lynx subspecies – Balkan lynx is one of the most endangered cats. Its population is estimated at 50 individuals.
Author: Małgorzata Banaszkiewicz
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