The Eurasian Lynx
The Eurasian lynx is the largest of the lynx species, and the third largest European predator after the brown bear and the wolf. They have an average height of 60cm and their weight generally ranges from 15kg to 28kg.
Their fur tends to be red in the summer, and changes to grey during the winter. They have black spots, although the number can vary greatly. The most characteristic trait of the Eurasian lynx is probably the black tuft at the tip of their ears.
The main prey of the lynx is small, hoofed animals, such as roe deer. They also prey on smaller mammals, such as hares, if supply of their preferred prey is scarce.
Habitat and Distribution
In Europe, the Eurasian lynx is mainly found in forested areas as these tend to have populations of their preferred prey. In central Asia, they can also be found in thinly wooded areas and rocky hills.
Their distribution is very wide ranging, including northern Europe, central Asia and Russia.
They were once common throughout the whole of Europe, but by the middle of the 19th century they were extinct in most central and western European countries. Between 1930 and 1950, the population in Europe had fallen to 700 lynx, but they have now made an impressive recovery. In recent years the population was estimated at 22,510 in Russia, 2,800 in the Carpathian mountains and 2,000 in Romania. Small populations also exist in a number of other countries, including Finland, Norway and Switzerland. The total population is currently estimated at approximately 50,000.
The current IUCN status of the Eurasian lynx is 'Least concern'.
Threats and Conservation
Habitat loss is one of the main threats to the Eurasian lynx. Livestock farming, logging and infrastructure development all pose a threat to their habitat. In areas where livestock farming is a main source of income, there is also conflict with humans. Lynx are sometimes killed in retaliation for loss of livestock.
Hunting of lynx is now prohibited in many countries, but they are not protected in all areas where there are lynx populations. Illegal hunting is also a major issue, as lynx are still hunted for fur.
Work is being done to raise awareness regarding the Eurasian lynx in local communities, and wildlife laws are being enforced to control the fur trade. Although the population has recovered greatly since it was at it's lowest, work needs to continue in order to protect the species.
There have been successful lynx reintroduction projects in the Alps. Since the early 1970s, they have expanded their range in France and Switzerland thanks to these projects.
In 2017, an application was made by the Lynx UK Trust to reintroduce the Eurasian lynx to parts of the UK. This followed a two year consultation which included an online questionnaire for the general public. The trust has stated that due to their solitary nature, they pose no threat to humans and it is rare for them to prey on livestock. The licensing process is still ongoing, and the timing of a decision is not yet known.
Campaigners argue that a healthy lynx population could be beneficial to biodiversity, as well as restoring the balance of the ecosystem. The chief scientific adviser to the Lynx UK Trust believes that there is a moral and ethical duty to reintroduce the Eurasian lynx.
Although there has been some opposition to the campaign, there is strong rural support for the project. After an absence of more than 1,300 years, a successful campaign could mean lynx roaming the UK Countryside once again.
© 2018 Natalie Cookson