Predator recovery across Europe – Part 3 – Lynx

The Lynx is thought to number around 10,000 individuals across Europe. There are more smaller populations that have been created following reintroduction programmes so I will not break these down in the same way.

There are two species of lynx within Europe (these are significantly different animals and would likely be incapable of breeding together, unlike for instance Iberian wolves and French wolves). The Iberian lynx was at one time found across Spain, Portugal and southern France, and numbered as many as 100,000 individuals at the beginning of the 20th century, however in 2003 there were thought to be around 160; by 2005 with lots of work this number had increased to around 400. The number is now around 500. This population is in and around Andujar Natural Park in central southern Spain. One of the main causes of their decline was the spread of Miximatosis to the rabbit population of Spain. This wiped out most of the rabbits, and for rabbit specialists caused a crash in the numbers.

The Eurasian Lynx inhabited much of the rest of Europe, however as with all carnivores humans have exterminated them from much of Europe. The Lynx spends much of its time in dense forest, and so the destruction of the ancient forests is likely to have been a main factor in their demise. They are smaller than bears and wolves, and as such can have viable populations in places where the others would not. As such there is far too many populations to talk about them all, I will just talk about the biggest.

The Carpathian mountains, running across eastern Europe, are home to around 2800 lynx, many of these within the borders of Romania.

They are still found in the remote parts of much of the Balklans and indeed while we did not see the animal, while we were in Croatia it was clear that they were around (these are experts of not being seen, the guide who took us up to the night hide had only seen about 15 in the more than 20 years he had spent in the park). While this population is likely in total to be reasonable in size, due to the fact that they are split into lots of little populations it is hard to judge it overall. The biggest population here is in western Macedonia, and remote parts of Albania.

Finland and Sweden both have lynx populations well over a thousand and is thought to be growing. Norway has around 400.

There are small populations moving into many of the other mountainous regions in remote parts of Europe including the Alps. These are often bolstered by further translocations.

While it is great to know the European Lynx is there (and continued discussion is had about bringing them back to the UK) these are some of the most shy cats in the animal kingdom and so in much of their range they are rarely seen. The Iberian Lynx is more easily viewed and is proving good for tourism in the area it is recovering in.

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