Caturday Special: Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx)

Mlem! The beautiful square-faced Eurasian lynx. With a gorgeous, almost orange, brown coat (although pelage varies) and those textbook tufty ears, these are one of Europes most refined and gorgeous predators. (Credit: Jon Glittenberg CC-BY-SA 4.0)

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.

My sister’s cat, Bob. Not a lynx but he does look like one from some angles (Credit: Me)

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.

Look at them teefies! These are definitely some killing teeth! The cat will often use those long, pointed canines to put a stranglehold on the neck of their prey, or if it is small enough just pierce the skull or sever the spinal column. Brutal, but awesome. (Credit: © Copyright Robert Lamb CC-BY-SA 2.0)

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.

I wanted to show one standing so you could see its long legs. I would say this makes it an ambush/pounce hunter, possibly even using the height of trees to get the literal drop on prey. (Credit: Mathias Appel via Pixnio)

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.

Kitten tax! A Eurasian lynx kitten. You can see it has no ear tufts yet! I think they need to be hugged mercilessly until they get their ear tufts…Or maybe I made that up! (Credit: Bernard Landgraf CC-BY-SA 3.0)

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!

Top Ten Cats: Introduction – The basics of cat biology, evolution and natural history.
Top Ten Cats #10 – The Pallas’ cat – a small, very fluffy pika-hunter from Asia.
Top Ten Cats #9 – Jaguarundi – A unique and little known Puma relative.
Top Ten Cats #8 – Clouded Leopard – A stealthy and stunning Asian cat.
Top Ten Cats #7 – Jaguar – Beauty in spades, loves swimming, cracks skulls with teeth…
Top Ten Cats #6 – Lion – Emblematic, beautiful and social, an amazing cat.
Top Ten Cats #5 – Black-footed cat – one of the smallest, yet most deadly wild cats.
Top Ten Cats #4 – Smilodon – Going prehistoric with the sabre-toothed cats.
Top Ten Cats #3 – Tiger – One of the most gorgeous animals to have ever existed.
Top Ten Cats #2 – Cheetah – The placid lovechild of a sportscar and a murderer.
Top Ten Cats #1 – Domestic cats – Saviour of our foodstores and loving companions.

Caturday Special: The Origin Story – Proailurus and Pseudaelurus – The progenitor species of all modern cats examined.
Caturday Special: The Snow Leopard – The ‘Ghost of the Mountains’ gets an examination, a beautiful cat with some remarkable characteristics.
Caturday Special: The Scottish Wildcat – Once an emblem of so many Scottish clans, now this poor, cute, and feisty wildcat is struggling to survive due to historic persecution and current ongoing interbreeding with domestic cats.
Caturday Special: The Serval – Find out about this elegant and beautiful medium-sized African wildcat and how it has become part of our domesticated cat lineage!
Caturday Special: The Kodkod – The smallest cat in the Americas and endemic to only a small part of Chile and Argentina, find out about this amazing little boopster.
Caturday Special: The Feliformia and the Spotted Hyena – Did you know that hyenas are actually more closely related to cats than to dogs? They are members of sub-order of carnivores called ‘Feliformiae‘ or the cat-like carnivores. Learn more about them, the hyena and the hyena’s remarkable genitals here.
Caturday Special: The Cougar – The second biggest cat in the Americas is actually more closely related to your domestic moggy than the lion! Learn more!

Published by Karl Anthony Mercer

Like a dark-chocolate fountain at a weight loss party, Karl Anthony Mercer is an under-utilised river of bittersweetness. When not busy researching or writing about any and all non-fiction topics for 'We Lack Discipline' Karl can often be found walking, staring at wildlife or writing poetry.

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