The Eurasian lynx is Europe’s third largest predator after brown bears and wolves, and is the biggest of the species of lynx. Its body is short and it has long legs with large feet. Its ears have a distinctive black tuft at its tip and its paws have retractile sharp claws. Its coat is long and very dense, especially during the winter, and has a wider range of colors than the other cats. Its shorter, summer coat is more brownish or reddish, while in winter it may be yellowish-gray, silver-gray, grizzled grayish-brown, dark gray or ashy blue. The pattern on the coat also varies a lot, with some animals having very clear black spots, which sometimes become narrow stripes, others having almost no spots.
Eurasian lynxes live in a wide range from western Europe into Russia and Central Asia. They live in temperate broadleaf boreal or mixed forests with lots of undergrowth for cover. These animals also inhabit the Himalayas northern slopes, the alpine tundra, mountains in the central Asian desert area, and all of the Tibetan Plateau. They can live in rocky areas, brushy spaces and open forests.
Typically crepuscular, the Eurasian lynx is active at dawn and dusk, and will often sleep out both day and night in thickets and other places that are safe for hiding. These lynxes are good climbers and sometimes lie in trees and high rocks, watching for prey and ambushing them. They are solitary creatures, as are most cats, except during the breeding season. Males and females have overlapping territories and communicate through means of scent marks that they leave around their borders. Their territories vary greatly in size depending on the availability of their prey, with some being a mere 20 sq. km, others more than 400 sq. km. The Eurasian lynx produces an unusual variety of vocalizations throughout the breeding season; growls, grunts coughs and meow-like caterwauling. At other times they are very quiet, thought they will mew, growl, hiss purr and chatter at prey that is out of reach, in the manner of a domestic cat.
Eurasian lynxes are strictly carnivorous. They eat mostly musk deer, roe deer and chamois, but may prey on ungulates the size of caribou and elk during winter, as this prey is vulnerable in deep snow. They also eat red foxes, hares, rabbits, rodents and birds.
Eurasian lynxes are polygynous. By the use of scent marks and vocalizations, the females broadcast their availability for mating to males in adjacent territories, who will go looking for them. The breeding season is from February to April. Pregnant females seek out a secluded den which they will line with fur, feather and grasses for comfort and warmth. After a 2-month gestation period, they give birth to 2-3 kittens, which are born blind and helpless. After 6 weeks, the kittens eat solid food and are ready to leave their den. When they are old enough, they go with their mother when she is out hunting, to learn how to do this for themselves. At about 10 months of age they become independent, usually breeding at 2-3 years old for the first time.
Habitat loss as a result of deforestation, loss of prey due to illegal hunting, and game hunting and trapping for fur are the primary threats to this species.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Eurasian lynx is between 70,000 and 80,000 animals, including about 9,000-10,000 animals in Europe, 22,510 animals in Russia, 27,000 in China and 10,000 in Mongolia. Overall, Eurasian lynxes’ numbers are stable today and they are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.
Eurasian lynxes have an effect on the population size, distribution, and behavior of some of their prey species, particularly roe deer and chamois.