Once on the brink of extinction, the Eurasian lynx made a comeback, and hopefully, it is here to stay.
Eurasian Lynx Scientific Classification
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Felidae
- Genus: Lynx
- Species: Lynx lynx
Eurasian Lynx Appearance
- Lifespan: 15 to 17 years
- Length: 29 to 42 inches
- Height: 22 to 30 inches
- Weight: 26 to 71 pounds
- Top speed: 50 mph
Eurasian lynxes have reddish or brown fur coats in the summer with black spots on top and white underbellies, necks, and chins.
But there is some variation, and individuals living closer to the species’ southern range are brighter colored and rock more dots.
The color variations are a natural camouflage feature, allowing the animals to blend in better with their surroundings for protection purposes.
Winter brings thicker fur that varies from silver-gray to grayish-brown — which works better with bleak conditions.
Eurasian lynx hairs are shorter than most other wild cats, and their patterns are highly variable. Just as you won’t find two zebras with the exact same stripes, you won’t find two Eurasian Lynxes with the same spots.
Eurasian lynxes have supermodel-long legs and large webbed feet that serve as built-in snowshoes. Conveniently, they also sport strong claws that can reach up to two inches long!
Their bobbed tails are typically between four and ten inches long — depending on the gender, size, and region — and are capped with a black tip.
Speaking of black tips — all Eurasian lynxes have onyx-colored tufts of hair shooting off the top ends of their ears. Why? The projectile hairs help direct sound into the ear canal. They also have shaggy beards — called “ruffs” — in either white or gray.
The largest of the lynx species, Eurasians are usually between 29 and 42 inches long and 22 to 30 inches tall. Individuals weighing between 26 and 71 pounds have been reported. Males are generally larger than females.
Eurasian Lynx Subspecies
Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy, was the first person to name Eurasian lynxes in 1758. At the time, he went with Felis lynx. However, subsequent research changed things up, and the accepted scientific name is now Lynx lynx.
Proposed sub-species include:
- L. l. lynx
- L. l. isabellinus
- L. l. dinniki
- L. l. wrangeli
- L. l. balcanicus
- L. l. carpathicus
Did you know? Eurasian lynxes can jump up to 15 feet lengthwise and nearly 10 feet high.
Eurasian Lynx Range & Habitat
As one of the three wild cats of Europe, the Eurasian lynx can be found from Northern, Central, and Eastern Europe to Central Asia — from Norway to Myanmar.
They prefer to live near hideouts, for stalking and sleeping purposes, including rocky steppes, forest steppes, montane forests, and boreal forests.
While they can handle some snow, they migrate to lower lands during the winters because deep powder presents survival hurdles. You’ll never find a Eurasian lynx thriving in a region with deep snow, somewhere over 39 inches.
What is the Eurasian lynx home range? Males’ home ranges average about 96 square miles while females stick to a 51-square-mile region.
- Continents: Asia, Europe
- Countries: Afghanistan; Albania; Armenia; Austria; Azerbaijan; Belarus; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; China; Croatia; Czechia; Estonia; Finland; France; Georgia; Germany; Hungary; India; Iran; Iraq; Italy; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Latvia; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Mongolia; Nepal; North Macedonia; North Korea; Norway; Pakistan; Poland; Romania; Russia; Serbia; Slovakia; Slovenia; Sweden; Switzerland; Tajikistan; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Ukraine; Uzbekistan
Forest | Shrubland | Grassland | Rocky areas | Desert
Eurasian Lynx Behavior and Lifestyle
Generally speaking, Eurasian lynxes are primarily nocturnal or crepuscular — meaning they’re most active at twilight and dusk — depending on their location.
However, daytime sightings happen occasionally. Impressively, they can travel up to 12 miles a night!
A solitary felid, Eurasian lynxes stick to themselves except during breeding season. Otherwise, they’re very territorial and use scent marks to define their ranges. They sleep in protected areas, such as dense thickets and cave hideouts.
Eurasian lynxes are notoriously secretive and have been known to elude researchers for years in certain regions.
They owe much of their elusiveness to their silence. Except during mating season — when they mew, purr, and growl to attract mates — Eurasian lynxes are monk-like.
Eurasian Lynx Diet
The diet and hunting patterns of Eurasian lynxes are largely dependent on location. Notably, they’re the third-largest predator group in European forests, after the brown bear and wolf.
Individuals in Asia feed almost exclusively on hares. In times of need, they’ll also go for small-hoofed animals. However, 79% to 99% of their diet consists of rabbit-like animals.
Eurasian lynxes in Europe have a broader buffet. They eat everything from birds to wild boar to squirrels. The Eurasian lynx population who lives further north in countries like Finland and Estonia prefer roe deer and white-tail deer. Eurasian lynxes in Poland and Austria focus on red deers.
With their supersonic eyesight and hearing, they’re super stealthy stalkers and deft hunters. Sometimes, Eurasian lynxes will “chatter” like house cats to trick their victims into coming closer — and it often works!
Eurasian lynxes typically pounce on their prey, but they’re also skilled at the ambush method when situations allow.
They use cliffs, fallen trees, and high rocks to survey their territory, and males will travel as much as 173.7 square miles — about the size of San Jose, California — in search of food.
Notably, lynxes and humans have something in common: we both eat leftovers! They frequently bury their kills or hide them in trees and return to chow down the following day.
Eurasian Lynx Reproduction and Mating
Eurasian lynxes get busy between January and April. Females are usually “in heat” for about four to seven days, only once during this period. However, a miscarriage will trigger another estrus period immediately.
Pregnant females have a gestational period of 67 to 74 days and usually give birth to twins. Litters of three to five are rare but not unheard of.
Moms construct protected dens in secluded locations and line them with feathers, dry grass, and deer hair to make things comfortable for their babies.
After about two to three months, the family leaves the birthing den, but the offspring usually stick with their mother for just under a year.
They weigh between 8.5 to 15.2 ounces at birth and don’t open their eyes for 10 to 12 days. Initially, Eurasian lynxes have gray-brown fur, which changes after 11 weeks of age.
Kittens feed off their moms for the first six weeks, at which point they begin to experiment with solid foods. However, they’re not fully weaned until six months of age.
Individuals reach sexual maturity at 2 to 3 years old and can start having babies of their own.
Eurasian lynxes typically live between 15 to 17 years in the wild and up to 24 years in captivity.
Eurasian Lynx Conservation Status
Eurasian Lynx Predators and Threats
Eurasian lynxes are the largest and most powerful of all the lynx species, and they’ve fought their way back from extinction over the past 70 years.
Super stealthy and unusually silent, they can evade detection for months. In fact, researchers are often shocked to stumble across skulking felids in places they’ve been studying for months!
The Eurasian lynx population is currently stable, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists them as a species of Least Concern on its Red List. Experts believe there are approximately 10,000 individuals living in the wild, with the largest communities living in Scandinavia.
But modern threats are looming, and their numbers may be on the decline once again.
Wolverines and gray wolves are the biggest predatory threats to Eurasian lynxes, and when they appear in a region, cat populations decline.
Lynxes — who are excellent climbers — hide out in the treetops to escape potential capture.
In Russia’s taiga regions, wolverines, red foxes, eagle owls, and wolves compete with Eurasian lynxes for food. And while the felids have small pockets of dominance in parts of Belarus, the other species usually win the wars of attrition.
In dire situations, the Eurasian lynx will go the way of the Donner Party and resort to cannibalism.
Population fragmentation and habitat loss due to human activities and encroachment are also problems for the Eurasian lynx. They’re also a notorious foe of farmers who shoot individuals that get too close to chicken coops.
Eurasian Lynx Facts
Here are some fun facts about the Eurasian lynx:
- Lynxes have incredible eyesight. They can see a mouse from 250 feet away!
- The tufts atop Eurasian Lynx ears help direct sound into the ear canal, which enhances their hearing and makes them better hunters.
- Eurasian lynxes are fantastic hunters and can successfully catch animals twice their size!
- Despite official protections, it’s still legal to hunt Eurasian lynxes in Estonia, Latvia, Russia, Armenia, and Iraq.
- The Eurasian lynx is one of the world’s most widely distributed wild cats.
- Eurasian lynxes are still poached for their furs in parts of Europe.
- The Eurasian lynx ranks among the most secretive animals, making them difficult to study.
- Between the 1930s and 1950s, the Eurasian lynx almost went extinct in Europe. The population had dwindled to only 700. But protections were put in place, and the population has bounced back 10-fold.
- In 2019, after a spate of attacks, New York State officially declared Eurasian lynxes “dangerous” and forbade ownership of them.