Biology, ecology and behavior

Eurasian lynx is the biggest cat in Europe and the largest of the four lynx species. Lynx lives from Western Europe to Central Asia and can be found in all climate zones, however over the last centuries their range has shrunk and only remnant populations are left with larger populations in Baltic and Scandinavian countries.

Males are larger than females, typically weighing around 20 kg, but can get up to 40 kg. Females usually weigh between 8 and 21 kg. Averaging at about 70 cm at the shoulders, lynx is about three times bigger than domestic cat. Lynx is relatively long legged for its size with large paws that have dense fur during the winter that act like snowshoes and allow lynx to travel easily through deep snow. Like domestic cats, lynx too can retract his claws when walking, keeping them sharp.

Typical feline round head with short snout and distinctive ears with black tufts of hair. Another distinctive feature is short tail with a black tip. During the summer coat is short and brownish, but during the winter lynx grows longer, denser and silkier fur. Chest, belly and insides of legs are covered in white fur.

Source: LCIE
Source: LCIE

Fur colour can vary depending on geographic location, but is almost always marked by black spots, however the pattern is different for each individual.


  • Lynx can purr like domestic cats
  • Lynx’s back legs are longer than his front legs
  • Like most cat species, the lynx has retractable claws, which enable it to firmly grip its prey. It can also use these to climb trees, and, like domestic cats, it has to regularly stretch its claws, to keep them in optimum condition.

Lynx diet

Eurasian lynx is a carnivore that mostly hunts small to medium sized ungulates like roe deer and chamois, however occasionally it can also take on younger individuals of larger ungulates like red deer. When ungulates are rare or absent, lynx diet consists of smaller prey like hares, foxes, wild cats, marmots, wild boar, birds and domestic animals.

Unlike wolf whose strategy is to chase down prey, lynx is an ambush hunter. As his prey is most active in the evening, he is mainly crepuscular (meaning that it is active in the twilight periods around dawn and dusk) and nocturnal.

Source: Franc Kljun
Source: Franc Kljun

He will lay in wait until prey is close enough for a surprise attack or quietly sneak up. When attacking, he leaps up and holds onto his prey with his front claws and kills it with a bite to the throat. If the surprise fails and his prey runs away, he will not chase after it. Usually when a kill is bigger (ungulate), it can take several nights for him to finish. The time it takes for him to finish large kill varies depending on number of lynxes feeding (mother with cubs will go through kills faster than a single animal), size and age of animal. In average lynx will feed on the kill for four days, unless he is disturbed and chased away by another predator.

Consuming his prey, he always starts with large thigh muscles until only large bones, head, fur and intestines remain. As he is feeding, he’ll strip the pelt away from the meat, so we can often find it beside his kill turned inside out. To hide the prey before other predators, lynx will often try to bury his prey or cover it with leaves and other material nearby. When he is chased away from his prey, he will not return, which makes repeated livestock attacks in the same area unlikely.


Being solitary, females and males usually avoid each other, except for the short time during mating season (between February and March). During this time, lynx are more active during the day and will call out frequently. As females are only receptive four to seven days during the mating season, male will stay close by and check with her regularly.

Pregnant female creates a den in secluded rocky location, often at the base of the old tree or under ledges, using feathers, deer hair and dry grass for bedding. Gestation period lasts about 70 days, so at the end of May or in early June 2 to 3 cubs are born. Like female bears, lynx female raises her cubs without any help from the male.

Source: Franc Kljun
Source: Franc Kljun

At two weeks cubs eyes open and at 1 month they begin to walk. At that time they also start eating solid food, but they will still nurse (drink mothers milk) for two to four more months. At two to three months cubs start to follow their mother on the hunt. They will remain with their mother until next mating season. After separating from their mother, littermates often remain together for a few more weeks or months before seeking their own territory. Usually only half of the litter survive their first year (50% juvenile mortality) and of those again only half survives their second year when they disperse and look for their own home range.


Primarily a forest dwelling species, lynx can be found in extended, temperate and boreal forests from Western Europe to Russia. In Europe it inhabits all climate zones, from sea level to northern tree line. In Asia it inhabits more open and thinly wooded areas, steppe habitats and semi deserts.

Wide spreading forest land offers plenty of hideouts, an abundance of prey species, enough cover and little human disturbance.

Unlike bear, lynx is very territorial. Individuals are solitary, except females with cubs and regularly mark their territory and defend it against other individuals. Male territories are larger and often overlap with territories of one or more females. Size of the territory varies and depends on habitat type and prey availability.

Source: Franc Kljun
Source: Franc Kljun


Adults are solitary, elusive and secretive in their behaviour, which makes them difficult to observe in the wild. Typically, very active at dawn and dusk, they spend the day sleeping in the dense brushes and other safe hiding places. As they avoid people, they often remain undetected in regions where they live. Besides human population density, habitat fragmentation caused by road infrastructure also affect lynx presence. Attempting to cross motorways increases the change of collision.

Having a good senses of smell, sight and hearing, they are not very vocal, except during the mating season, but use glad secretions to communicate and mark their territories.

Like domestic cats they can purr and use mews, hissing and growls to vocalize. During the mating season, males usually mate with more than one female, but afterwards do not help with cubs.

Being solitary hunters, it is important to kill prey as soon as possible to avoid injury to the predator during the struggle. Surprise attack is an important part of ensuring this as well as precise bite. Lynx kills its prey with a bite to the throat that crushes prey’s windpipe or bite to the head, severing the spinal cord.

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