What Tufted Ears You Have! | Lynxes, What Are They?

2년 전

The Silent Predator

The Eurasian Lynx, Pixabay.com, CC0 License.

The mighty and graceful animal with its tufted ears is often referred to as a "Lynx".
However, it might not come to any surprise that the simple term "Lynx" is not describing a particular animal in the Felidae family, but is instead the term for the "Genus of Lynx".[1]

In the genus of the lynx there are five known species, one of which probably gone extinct at the end of the last glacial period.[2]
The other four, however, are wildly alive and thanks to repopulation measures[3][6] and hunting regulations[4, 13.7] only one of the four, the Iberian Lynx, is still struggling to survive and repopulate due to its main food supply, the rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) population is dying because of a viral hemorrhagic disease.[5][6]

Never heard of them!
Now, What the tuft is a Lynx?

It is no wonder that you've never heard of the "lynx" - or seen it - before, as it is an elusive, nocturnal and stealthy feline populating dense (and preferably, but not exclusively) higher-altitude forests.
Generally speaking, there are four types of lynxes.[6]

Orange: Eurasian Lynx, Purple: Canadian Lynx, Red: Iberian Lynx, Green: Bobcat
Craig Pemberton, CC-BY-SA.

If one lives in these marked regions, then one might even be able to encounter one in the wild. Although findings are rare as lynxes are shy and prefer to stalk and ambush their prey instead of hunting it like wolves do.
It is considered lucky to spot a lynx from afar, and even luckier to see one up-close in the wild as they keep themself mostly in hiding. For humans, which are not generally considered prey by a lynx,[7] at least. Deer, rabbits, birds and other small to medium-sized animals however are not in luck when they spot a lynx, nor are they in luck when they don't spot him, paradoxically. These tufted cats surprise-attack their prey and kill it with a quick bite in the lower throat area.[9] Once a lynx has been spotted the deer or rabbit might try to escape but lynxes are not only surprisingly fast but are also very agile maxing out at a top-speed of 80 km/h or 50 mph, which is 10 km/h or 7 mph faster than a deer.[8] Thus, each day, a lynx consumes about 1-2 kilogram (2.2-4.4lbs) which corresponds to approximately 50 deer a year, or one each week.[9]

Which lynx is it?

There are four species in the genus lynx.
The Eurasian Lynx, Canadian Lynx, Bobcat (Red Lynx) and the Iberian Lynx.

Canadian Lynx Portrait, Michael Zahra, CC-BY-SA

Iberian Lynx Cub, By Lynxexsitu.es, CC-BY

Lynxes, in general, are considered solitary animals only meeting and traveling together in mating season. Their "hunting range" or "territory" ranges about, depending on the availability of food and prey, in between of about 20 km² up to 400 km². (7.7 sqmi to 154.4 sqmi) [10][11][12] However, if two lynx meet in the insanely large, and overlapping, territories then they start their "famous" "screaming battles" without hurting each other physically. What a terrible thing to encounter alone in the woods, if you didn't know what it came from. This "screaming-stand-off" is a territorial dispute to show the other who's in charge. The first to back down "looses" the fight and moves out of their way and chooses a different path. In most of these (recorded) encounters, lynxes fight a peaceful, yet loud, territorial dispute.

What is the tuft actually for?

It is suggested that the tuft increases the lynxes hearing abilities, that it could be a "second pair of whiskers" above their head or that it is might increase their sexual appeal to other lynxes.[13] Sources are unclear and it could be everything or none of the mentioned reasons. Just like the bobbed tail, maybe it only looks cute to us humans but actually has no "real purpose" to it. Though, due to their good hearing[14], it is very likely that these tufts act as an hearing aid as these, like a hand held to ones ear, channels some sound-waves due to their dispersion into their ears.

Ear tufts, Pixabay.com, CC0 License.

Any further characteristics?

Not only their distinctive beard, bobbed tail (also colloquially known as "nub") and their striking ear tufts are characteristics of a typical lynx, but so are their thick and fluffy paws as well as their way-above-average eyesight!
The term "lynx-eyed" appropriately represents the keen sight a lynx has. It is possible for a lynx to spot a mouse over a whopping distance of 76 m or 250 ft![11] Their thick and fluffy paws, best seen in Canadian lynx, can act like snow-shoes that stop a (Canadian) lynx from sinking in when walking in the snow.[15]

Why are they endangered?
Why do we need to protect them?

Iberian Lynx Closeup, By Lynxexsitu.es, CC-BY

Talking about "snow-shoes", it might be important to take a look at the lynxes main food supply. The "snow-shoe hare" that is for the Canadian lynx, specifically. For the three other lynx species, that applies as well. The local hare population is preferably targeted by all lynxes. Currently, only the Iberian Lynx is considered to be "Endangered", although it has been "Critically Endangered"[16] in the year 2011 once.
The Iberian Lynx is endangered - not only, but also, due to hunting for its fur - because its main food supply and prey, the European Rabbit is suffering from an outbreak of Myxomatosis on the Iberian peninsula since the 1950s.[17]

Furthermore, not only the Iberian Lynx was, or is, currently under threat and in trouble. Canadian and Eurasian lynx as well as Bobcats were and are frequently hunted for their precious fur. The last lynx was killed in the UK somewhere in between 500-700 AD[20] whereas the last lynx in Germany was shot in between 1900-1920.[21]

Why should we repopulate the lynxes?

They help to control and sustain wildlife that would, otherwise, go rampant.
In Germany's forests, for example, "game biting" or "game browsing" (Wildverbiss) is a serious problem[18][19] that can not only be countered by repopulating the wolves around here, but also by repopulating the more "reserved" lynx. As they consume about 50 deer each year[9] they also make the whole population of further attacks wary. This not only means that the lynx has to move on in his "territory" so that he can find "inexperienced" prey but also those wary deer tend to loosen up a bit, which, in return can help to regenerate "browsed" forests.[22][23] They, furthermore, do not see humans as prey - as already stated - and are, therefore, not a threat at all to us. Due to being that shy, which is in their nature, they won't approach urban areas like wolves or foxes do anytime soon.
Critics to reintroducing the lynx see a potential threat to their livestock of sheep, cows or chickens. Additionally they worry that those few lynxes being introduced have only a marginal impact on the deer as they (usually) do not hunt red deer.[23] One has to decide which is the preferable (possible) worst-outcome that could happen, if one asks me.

Another Lynx! Pixabay.com, CC0 License.

The BBC-Article finishes off with asking the question whether it wouldn't be a wiser choice to introduce the "truly-endangered" Iberian lynx.
I could definitely agree to that proposal, especially as the opportunistic hunting behaviour might also affect the deer population slightly. Overall, according to every information I gathered, the harm of reintroducing the lynx, to its once native habitat, has only marginal downsides and could be easily approved. Only free-roaming livestock will be in danger, most likely.

What will happen?
What are the outlooks?

The lynx has been, fairly recently, reintroduced into the "Harz" Mountains in Germany. On that example we can see clear and possible results that will come from returning lynxes to the wild.[24]

Lynxes boost tourism.

AECOM conducted a survey in the Harz Region, specifically the city of Mull. In this survey, they did find that 54% of all people surveyed named the lynx as a contributing factor in choosing their holiday destination.[24] Furthermore, for about 4% of people surveyed they even stated that it was the most contributing factor. Revenue generated by tourism is approximated in between 9'000'000€ up to 15'000'000€!

Threat to livestock? Threat to deer?

Both the Guardian[25] and CNN[26] assume that returning the lynx to the (UK) wilderness will have a beneficial impact on the local deer population, although voicing possible concerns that lynx might prey on livestock. Sadly, there have been reports in the news that there were actual cases of lynxes preying on sheep.[26][27] However, at least in Germany, farmers can get a compensation of the current animals market value if they file a claim and the kill gets confirmed to stem from a lynx.[29]
These two stories are, however, the only two cases I could find.
That would equal a sum of 11 sheep killed by lynxes over a course of ~18 years.

Lynx Cub, Pixabay.com, CC0 License.

In Conclusio: Helpful!

Lynxes do not only boost, due to their graceful countenance and elusive nature, tourism in regions where they've been reintroduced, but they also are able to reduce deer, marten or raccoons.[30]
The impact on farmer and livestock has been only marginal, considering that 0.61 sheep were killed in total "each year" since the reintroduction of the lynx. There are estimated to be 130 lynxes living in Germany currently. Taking into account that each lynx kills 60-80 deer a year, we get approximately 7800-10400 deer hunted down last year alone by all lynxes combined, whereas sheep account to only 11 confirmed kills over the whole time lynxes are roaming in the wild since 2000.

In conclusion and in my humble opinion,
I do believe that reintroducing the lynx to the UK and further protecting Eurasian lynxes in Germany or repopulating Iberian lynxes in Spain and Portugal is highly beneficial to the environment and (tourism) economy. The benefits clearly outweigh possible disadvantages, as direct interactions with farmers and humans have been very few.

Sleeping Lynx, Pixabay.com, CC0 License.
As the damage done to trees by large deer population needs to be controlled in a "humane" way (i.e. not setting out a virus, like Australia did to combat their rabbit plague) which can easily be achieved by introducing a (former native) solitary predator that hunts, kills and moves on. As can be easily seen in the Canadian lynx and snow-shoe hare population, it seems likely that a self-controlling mechanism - best described by the Lokta-Volterra equations - will function well to reduce or increase deer and lynx population respectively in the UK or Germany as well.

Additionally, on a very subjective note, you do have to agree that these lynxes are just cute.


Further On The Topic:

Learned anything interesting or new today? Did you enjoy the article? Please do let me know in the comments! :)
If any questions remain or if I forgot any vital information, feel free to ask them in the comments and I try my best to answer these or you can contact me via Discord: Serylt#8885 for a private chat.

"What does the lynx say?"

Signed with no tufts on my ears,
Authors get paid when people like you upvote their post.
If you enjoyed what you read here, create your account today and start earning FREE STEEM!
Sort Order:  trending

Awwwww... so cute :) i wish i could have one 💓 Well documentated and written post. Thanks for sharing!