Saturday, April 5, 2014

Eurasian Lynx: National Symbol of Macedonia

This photo of a Eurasian Lynx was taken by David Castor. I chose this photo because it shows the great beauty of this magnificent creature, this gift to us from God, and I appreciate Mr. Castor's permission to use the photo on my blog. According to the information listed on the photo, it was taken at Skåne Zoo (Swedish: Skånes djurpark), near Höör, Scania, southern Sweden in 2009.

Today's blessed little creature featured in the A to Z Challenge is the Eurasian Lynx, a lovely animal related to the American Bobcat. I have lived in Bobcat territory my entire life and have never seen one because they are private, secretive, and silent hunters. Like its American cousin, the Bobcat, the Eurasian Lynx is a fierce ambush predator, using the cover of the forest to stalk its prey. They belong to the mountains where they live, and the mountains belong to them. We are just visitors and should respect their privacy. 

With that said, I do agree with having animals in zoos. There are too many people who do not respect or appreciate that animals are gifts from God and zoos are the only way we have to protect these animals. 

Aww! Now who could resist a photo of a sunbathing, sleeping Lynx? In stark contrast to its predatory nature, the Eurasian Lynx communicates by mewing, purring, and using other sounds resembling the common house cat. This lovely photo was taken by Ralph Schmode and we appreciate the fact that it is in the public domain so we can all admire the beauty of this animal. 

The Eurasian Lynx

The Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx), has a body that has adapted to its mountain forest habitat with strong legs and webbed, furry paws that provide speed, stability, and silence when moving on snow. In fact, it can live in its territories for years before it is finally spotted. Once it spots its prey, the Eurasian Lynx remarkably begins to behave like my own cat, Niblet. Niblet is a domesticated cat and never leaves the house, spending far too much time playing games on the computer, but when he spies a bird outside my bedroom window he makes a chattering sound--not very sneaky!

Niblet playing games on the computer. Niblet is a Maine Coon, which is also an exceptionally large cat, but he is what is known as a domesticated cat. He thinks he's a wildcat, but he's only wild at night when he runs through the house while I'm trying to sleep.

Like a house cat staring out the window at a bird, the Eurasian Linx will also chatter when it sees unreachable prey, which may explain why Niblet chatters--he knows he cannot reach the bird. If a Eurasian Lynx is on one side of a mountain and sees a rabbit hopping through the snow on the opposite mountain it will instinctively begin to chatter. Perhaps this is his way of saying, "I'll get you next time!"

A Large Lynx, but Small Big Cat

The Eurasian Lynx is also the largest animal in the Lynx family standing 28 inches to the shoulder. The Eurasian Lynx is generally 51 inches long. Males weigh 40 to 60 pounds while females average 40 pounds, so there is not that much difference in size between males and females. They are considered a medium-sized wild cat.

Although there is snow on the ground, this Eurasian Lynx is showing off its reddish-brown summer coat. Perhaps it is hoping for an early spring! This lovely photo is used courtesy of photographer Böhringer Friedrich. The photo was taken in 2011.

Another interesting fact about the Eurasian Lynx is how its coat changes color. It is either red or brown in summer, then thickens with a silvery gray shade in winter, but its belly remains white year-round. Its outer fur is marked with a variety of black spots and sometimes stripes.

Lifestyles of the Mountain Big Cats

European Lynx generally live to be 17 years or older, which is pretty old when you think about it, and probably due to the fact that they stay hidden.

They prefer to make their homes in mountain and woodland areas with rocky outcroppings where they can watch for their favorite prey, deer. They also eat rabbits, rodents, wild boar and reindeer and can kill animals four times their own size. They are stalkers, attacking with a quick burst of speed and killing with a swift, sharp bite to the neck.

They are great tree climbers, which adds a tremendous boost to their stalking ability. Like many animals, such as rattlesnakes, mountain lions, and coyotes, they prefer to hunt in the early morning and at dusk, then sleep during the day.

Creating a Family

The female Eurasian Lynx is able to have babies at 2 years old, though males mature a year later. Eurasian Lynx start thinking about having children sometime between January and March and once the female is pregnant it takes 68 days, or a little over two months before she gives birth to two or three kittens.

Pregnant females build their home, or den, using tree branches and roots for cover. Kittens are born blind, helpless, and with brown fur, gradually acquiring their adult colors with age. They begin to eat solid food at about six weeks old. They remain with their mothers ten months. Eurasian Lynx have kittens only once a year. Females stop having kittens at the age of 14.

Threats to Survival

The Eurasian Lynx once ranged the European forests, but their populations gradually declined. In spite of this fact, they are listed as animals of Least Concern with the IUCN, most likely because of their large numbers in Russia. The largest population of Eurasian Lynx--more than 90%--can be found in the Siberian forests, and I've noticed that many of the Eurasian Lynx in zoos come from this area. Another large population of Eurasian Lynx lives in the Carpathian Mountains.

This is a magnificent photograph by Michael Gabler. Notice the tufts of fur sticking up from the ears, the reddish-brown summer coat, those lovely eyes, and "Grandma, what big teeth you have!" Do not be fooled by the size of this cat, it is a fierce hunter! 

The Balkan Lynx in Macedonia, Slovenia, and Albania is nearly extinct, but it remains the National Symbol of Macedonia. Their numbers were reduced drastically in these areas, and other European countries, due to poaching. In Switzerland, the Eurasian Lynx was extinct in 1917 and reintroduced in 1978, but numbers are once again declining due to poaching. Poaching remains the greatest threat to the Eurasian Lynx.



Jemima Pett said...

They are wonderful creatures, aren't they? I've not seen them in the wild, although I have seen tigers. All the big cats are fantastic.
Blogging from Alpha to Zulu in April

Darla Sue Dollman said...

Yes, I think they're lovely. I have seen them in zoos. I was just telling a friend they appear to be slightly larger than bobcats, but I've only seen a bobcat once in the wild so I'm not much of a judge. We have a lot of mountain lions in the Southwest. It's a bit of a problem. They are more likely to come down into the city whereas this type of cat is more secretive, preferring wooded, mountain areas. Thanks for stopping by!