The Lynx

Image by Bernard Landgraf

Eurasian lynx. (Image by Bernard Landgraf)

There are four species of wildcat that fit into the genus Lynx.

Some are doing all right, but one of them is the most endangered species of wild cat in the world today.

Eurasian lynx

This lovely critter on the left is a member of the type species, Lynx lynx (apparently Carl Linaaeus, who named it in 1758, was out of ideas or perhaps he hiccuped, confusing the transcriptionist).

It’s the largest of the lynx species, per Arkive, and has (or had) one of the widest ranges of all cats, from Western Europe through Russia and on into Central Asia.

While the Eurasian lynx (also known as a European, common, northern, Siberian or Russian lynx) has almost disappeared in Europe, it’s holding its own in other parts of its range.

They’re trying to bring the lynx back in Europe. For example, Stefan Sobotta filmed the video below at a reintroduction center at Harz Mountain National Park, northern Germany.

Lynx restoration programs sometimes face opposition from hunters and farmers. This isn’t surprising – per the BBC, it’s the third largest predator in Europe, after the brown bear and gray wolf.

That’s something to keep in mind as we meet the Eurasian lynx…and it stalks us:
 

 
What beautiful, wild cats!

It’s always tricky to find a balance with Nature, but the world would be missing something wonderful if these cats ever disappeared forever.

Texas bobcat kittens in 2012.  (Image by Summer M. Tribble)

Texas bobcat kittens in 2012. (Image by Summer M. Tribble)

Bobcats

I have a little personal experience with Lynx rufus in that I’ve heard it from a distance and saw its tracks once – they were huge!

I imagined a creature the size of a Bengal tiger, at least, but as it turns the bobcat is the smallest species of lynx, with males weighing on average about 21 pounds (9.6 kg) and females about 15 pounds (6.8 kg).

The awful racket the night before that had sent me out looking for tracks down by the brook was probably the sound of this lynx’s prey not going out quietly. Apparently bobcats only scream when they’re horny.

The first time I heard it, as a child, it scared me, but later the sound echoing faintly through the forests of Western Massachusetts was a reassurance that all was still right with Nature.

It sounds just like this:
 


 

It’s neat, how that sound makes the world so much bigger than our little machines and highways – and much more mysterious.

While the Eurasian lynx likes woods, the bobcat lives in a variety of habitats. This probably why it’s found from British Columbia through Nova Scotia and down through the US into central Mexico.

Indeed, habitat loss is the #1 pressure on the bobcat today, but it isn’t considered threatened with extinction. Hunting and trading, however, are closely monitored.

Of course the Canada lynx subsists predominantly on snowshoe hares.  (Image:  Keith Williams)

Of course the Canadian lynx subsists predominantly on snowshoe hares. (Image: Keith Williams)

Canadian lynx

Yes, Canada has two different lynxes.

Actually, Dr. Wikipedia notes that Lynx canadensis here, while still a lynx, is also related to domestic cats as well as the genus Puma (these are felids, too, but let’s save pumas for next Friday).

The Canadian lynx is over twice the size of a house cat, but it’s very shy, sticking to the densest parts of the forest. When its large range overlaps with those of other predators, it tends to keep to the heights, too, seldom straying more than 100 yards (91 m) from the treeline.

Oddly enough, given all that, it can swim!

If it’s not chasing you back to shore during your unwise dip in the Yukon River, you’ll generally find the Canadian lynx in the boreal forests of North America, north of the beech-birch-maple woods and south of the tundra.

The lynx’s heavy dependence on snowshoe hares means its numbers tend to increase and decrease along with those of its prey, which apparently rise and fall in a 10-year cycle. Arkive says that the Canadian lynx is doing pretty well for itself except in eastern Canada, where it’s facing tough competition from coyotes, and in the US because of habitat fragmentation and accidents, as well as competition from other predators.

Videos of Canadian lynxes in the wild are rare, but they exist. One day recently, travelers along the Trans-Canada Highway in the Banff National Park region called the Parks Dispatch line when a mother Canadian lynx and her kitten (it’s actually pretty big) were spotted near a fence along the road. Alex Taylor was sent out and filmed this:
 


 
Of note, that snow could be quite deep. Her large paws allow Mama Lynx to run atop snow, if she wishes. This day, however, she and her kitten were feeling pretty laid back.

Iberian lynx

Last but certainly not least is Lynx pardinus. Also known as the Pardel or Spanish lynx, it’s not only the rarest of the lynxes, it’s also the most endangered species of cat anywhere in the world.
 


 
Protection and reintroduction programs have brought the Iberian lynx back from possibly fewer than 100 individuals in the wild up to a little over 300, as of 2009, per Wikipedia, although Arkive says it’s more like 170.

Zoos are also conducting captive breeding programs, and Spanish scientists are sequencing its genome, as this publicity video posted on YouTube by the Fundación General CSIC explains:
 

 
People once thought the Iberian lynx was the same as the Eurasian lynx, but it is a little smaller than the Eurasian and genetic tests as well as morphological studies confirm it’s a different species of lynx.

Like its cousin in Canada, the Iberian lynx prefers rabbits as a diet, though it tends to live in open scrublands rather than hiding in deep forests and high mountains.

Here’s another video to close out this Friday, this one by Mark Andrews, who found and filmed a small family of Iberian lynxes that were just chillin’ out in the heat of the day somewhere in the Sierra de Andujar National Park of Andalucia back in 2011. The mother is wearing a radio collar, and researchers call her “Elam.”
 

 
Did you wonder, when Junior disappeared out of the bottom frame, if this would be another case of a lynx stalking, this time without an enclosure? Guess it was too young – fortunately for the cameraman.

I wonder what those juveniles think of us.

Out of all lynxes in the world, they are the ones who will have to learn to accept routine close association with humans, not as friends but as partners.

The species may survive, but only at the cost of its wildness, at least over the short term.



Categories: Friday's Casual Cat

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