The Eurasian Lynx Lynx lynx is the largest lynx species, and has one of the widest ranges of any wild cat. Their fur has a usual ground colour of a yellowish-grey to greyish-brown, with white underparts.
The soft, thick pelage is thickest on the back, and can be variably marked with more or less distinct dark spots, and sometimes small stripes. Northern animals tend to be greyer and less spotted than southern animals.
In Scandinavia, spotted cats are called “cat lynx,” while unspotted ones are called “wolf lynx.” Summer coats usually have dark spots that fade to barely visible in the winter.
There is a distinct ruff of long hairs framing the face. The ears are large and pointed, and tipped with 4-5 cm erect tufts of dark hair. The backsides of the ears are black towards the tips, and show light central spots. Irises are a yellowish-brown to greenish, and the pupils are round. Their legs are long, with rear limbs longer than the front ones, giving body a tilted forward look. The footpads are broad and well furred for walking on snow, and the short tail is black-tipped.
They are found throughout the northern steppes of the Himalayas to an elevation of 2,500 metres.
The Eurasian Lynx is found in deciduous and mixed forests in Europe and Russia; open wooded regions and semi deserts in Central Asia; thick scrub and barren rocky areas on the northern slopes of the Himalayas and even up the Arctic tundra in northern latitudes.
A study in Poland found home ranges averaged 248 km2 for males, and 133 km2 for females. Population densities in Europe range from 1-3 adults/100 km2 but up to 5/100 km2 in eastern Europe.
Their population in central and southern Europe is estimated at 8,000, but is small and fragmented. They are thought to be doing well in Russia, with an estimated population of 30,000-50,000 animals. The Mongolian population is estimated at 10,000.
As the largest lynx species, Eurasian Lynx prey on wild ungulates but will eat smaller animals when deer are scarce. Unlike the Canada Lynx Lynx canadensis, and Iberian Lynx Lynx pardinus, this cat does not rely on hares, and thus is not dependent on fluctuating rabbit populations. They have been seen to cache carcasses in trees, especially in areas where there are other carnivore competitors.
Although they may hunt during the day when food is scarce, the Eurasian lynx is mainly nocturnal or crepuscular, and spends the day sleeping in dense thickets or other places of concealment. Like all lynx species, Eurasian Lynx are solitary except for mothers with kittens.
Mating occurs in late winter and early spring in most areas, usually February and March. The female is monestrous, and the receptive period can last 4-10 days. Dens are located at the base of old trees, in rocky areas, or in dense vegetation. One to four, usually 2-3, kittens are born after a gestation period of 67-74 days.
Kittens average 250-430 grams at birth. Their eyes open around two weeks of age, and they begin to walk between 24-30 days. They can nurse for 3-5 months, but will start to eat solid food at around one month.
The young may remain with the female until the next winter mating season, and littermates may stay together for a few weeks or months after separating from the female, travelling and hunting co-operatively. Sexual maturity for females is reached between 21-24 months of age, while males take approximately 30 months. Captive Eurasian Lynx have lived to 24 years of age.
The increasing urbanization of western Europe, and the resulting loss of habitat and diminished prey base, have led to a severe reduction of the Eurasian Lynx population there.
Escalating deforestation, persecution as stock killers, and illegal poaching remain major threats to their future. They are heavily trapped for the fur trade across their range, and legally hunted in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Estonia and Latvia.
Reintroduction programs have taken place in Switzerland, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Italy and France. Studies have shown that Eurasian Lynx are quick to rebound if hunting pressures are lessened, and protected areas with good prey bases are set aside.