Eurasian Lynx

page header

Native to Central Asian, European and Siberian forests. With one of the widest ranges of all cats, the presence of the species may go unnoticed for years – due mainly to its secretive nature. The largest populations occur in the northern-most areas of its range. Formerly widespread throughout Europe, efforts are being made to re-introduce the lynx to parts of its former range including France, Switzerland and Italy.

Eurasian lynx live in forested, mountainous regions far from dense human populations. When young, lynx spend time in trees. In winter, when many animals hibernate or migrate, these cats remain active. Their large, furry feet serve as snowshoes. Their coat becomes paler, and their fur thickens. Only during extremely bad weather do these lynx take shelter in caves, hollow logs and trees.

Distinguishing Characteristics
These medium-sized cats have stout bodies, long legs, large feet and stubby tails. All of these characteristics allow them to move quickly over short distances. Their soft, thick fur is usually grayish brown but may have shades of yellow or red. It is often marked with indistinct pale lines or spots. Their white whiskers frame their muzzle.

Most have a kind of collar of long hair around their necks and under their chins. They are distinctive for their prominent ear tufts--long, black hair on the tips of their ears.

Head and body length is 32-51 inches. Males may reach 70 lbs, females rarely more than 40.

The Eurasian lynx is mainly nocturnal and is most active at dawn and dusk (crepuscular).

There are four species in the lynx family: the Eurasian lynx, the Canada lynx, the Spanish or Iberian lynx and the bobcat.

Dietary Classification
Diet in the Zoo: Formulated commercial meat diet supplemented with mice and rats, and bones for enrichment.

Diet in the Wild: Small ungulates are their main prey, while other species of lynx prefer small animals such as rabbits. They are well skilled at stalking and capturing prey 3-4 times their own size, especially in the winter months when those animals are impeded by deep snow. Some rodents and birds round out their diet.

Life Span
Eurasian lynx may live to be 10-12 years old in the wild, though they typically live for much less due to fluctuations in food sources. Some Eurasian lynx have lived over 20 years in captivity.

Eurasian lynx are shy, secretive and solitary animals. Females hunt with their young in order to teach them proper techniques. A male's home range usually overlaps several different females' home ranges. Lynx mark their boundaries by urinating on rocks, trees and stumps. When the time comes to mate, these odors help the male to locate potential females.

Hunting methods are learned by observation and practice. Rather than smelling their prey, lynx depend on their extraordinary sense of hearing along with sight. Eurasian lynx spend time grooming themselves in order to keep clean and scratch on surfaces in order to keep their claws sharp. They are most active in early morning and late afternoon.

Winter brings both problems and advantages to Eurasian lynx populations. These cats can be easily seen against the snow in wintertime because of the lack of grass to hide behind. They often resort to hiding behind rocks at this time of the year. However, moving through the snow is easy for these cats because of their large, fur-covered feet that prevent them from sinking into the snow. When Eurasian lynx are discovered by a predator, they stand still and stare.

IUCN Red List: Near Threatened
Eurasian lynx populations once flourished in many countires of Europe until they almost became extinct in the mid-1900s. Their numbers were drastically reduced as a result of hunting and trapping for their fur. Their habitats (forested areas) also were slowly being destroyed. In the 1970s, great concern lead to taking lynx from areas where they were abundant in Europe and releasing them in the forested mountains of Switzerland, Austria and Germany. They adjusted well in this new area, except for the lack of their natural prey. Unfortunately, they turned to preying on flocks and herds of domestic animals. Re-introductions have been moderately successful.