Austria’s fauna: Lynx

The Eurasian lynx (Lynx Lynx) was originally native to all the forested areas of central Europe, from the Spanish Pyrenees to Asia, from Scandinavia to Greece. While the lynx still roved in large numbers through the Austrian forests of the 18th century, by the end of the 19th it had been mercilessly exterminated as a troublesome predator. It was only in recent decades that lynxes have strayed into the forests of the Muhlviertel and the Waldviertel from the Bavarian Forest and the Bohemian Forest. However, only few animals find sufficient living space in the Alps or in the Gurktaler Alps and the Karawanken mountains of southern Carinthia. Resettlement projects have encouraged the return of this species since the 1970s.

The Eurasian lynx is the heaviest of the four lynx species. The male can weigh up to 25 kg, with a shoulder height of 50 to 70 cm and a length of up to 120 cm. The female is a little smaller. The lynx is characterised by a reddish brown to grey-beige hide with black spots, a round head, marked side whiskers and bushes of black hair on its ears. Its tail is short and stumpy, with a black tip.

The lynx is a solitary animal living in a territory of an average of 150 km2, the size varying according to the food supply available. Two females are often found living in a male's territory. It mainly goes hunting at dusk and dawn, when its prey is also active, hunting mostly hoofed game such as deer and chamois. It needs between one and three kilos of meat every day. The lynx creeps up and ambushes its prey, but if it is unsuccessful, it does not pursue its victim. It travels large distance within its territory mainly at night.

The lynx's mating season is from February to April, when the animals can also be seen during the daytime, attracting each other's attention with their characteristic "ma-uu" call. At the end of May/beginning of June, the pregnant female finds a protected spot to give birth to usually two blind young lynxes, and stays there for the first few weeks. She brings up her young alone, breastfeeding them until they are able to tear meat. After ten months, the young animals leave their mother and set out to find a suitable territory. This is the most dangerous time for the young lynx, and most do not survive. There is an all-year ban on hunting lynx in Austria, the animal still being one of the endangered species.

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