On this blog, we share knowledge on the ecology of the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) in Belarus, acquired during field based research. We update the blog with new research notes as the studies are progressing.
In Eurasian lynxes there are several age-sex categories, which are strikingly or markedly differed by their life styles. The data that leads us to this conclusion originated from about 2300 km of snowtracking lynxes, study of lynxes with camera-traps (up to 70) and a lot of other various research results. Among them the results of two lynx telemetry projects.
During the winter of 2017-2018 in Naliboki Forest we have found that Eurasian lynxes climbed rather high pine trees (Pinus sylvestris) to emit mating calls during the mating season (Sidorovich, Gouwy & Rotenko 2018). In total, during February and March 2018, we registered four pine trees, on which adult male lynxes climbed for about 17-26 meters high. The density of the local lynx population was about 4-5 individuals per 100 km2 i.e. about 80 on an area of almost 2000 km2. We have evaluated that phenomenon of calling by lynxes from a tall tree top as a mating call, also taking into account that it was registered in the lynx mating season in Belarus (mid-February-early April).
In an earlier post, we reported several records of surprisingly social behaviour in lynxes: males walking with females outside the mating season and subadults joining mothers with kittens. In the book “Unknown Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx: New findings on the species ecology and behaviour” by Vadim Sidorovich, Jan Gouwy and Irina Rotenko (2018) we described all the cases we registered until the winter of 2018-2019 and stated that the Eurasian lynx is clearly a more social carnivore than what is believed based on general views about solitary carnivores.
During the past winter of 2018-2019 we continued to gather information about sociality in lynxes by snowtracking and extensive camera-trapping with individual identification by fur spot pattern analysis in Naliboki Forest, north-western Belarus.
Before we report about the new information on such poorly known social contacts of the Eurasian lynx, obtained during the winter of 2018-2019 (after the publication of the book), we will first resume the cases described in the book.
Because our methodical approach soon revealed aspects of the life of lynxes which were completely unknown before, we wanted to share the main new findings and hypotheses earlier and decided to publish them in a pilot book.
After an introduction, description of the study areas, and methodology chapter, each chapter starts with a statement based on our findings, the statement is followed by a short literature review regarding the topic, an assumption on why the topic has not been studied yet, and finally our own data and information sources, among which many photo documentations.
The book can be downloaded integrally on Researchgate:
Denning and raising of kittens in Eurasian lynxes has only been studied thoroughly in rocky regions of Europe. In these regions, the importance of closed structures for lynx denning has been demonstrated. Nearly all natal dens and the majority of all maternal dens in these regions are situated in rocky sites: in rock cavities or among boulders. In contrast to that, very little is known about lynx denning in non-rocky forests of the Eurasian temperate forest zone. There is a common belief among zoologists and lynx specialists that denning and even parturition in non-rocky forests only takes place in treefall. This belief is based on a few finds of kittens in treefall or forest plots with treefall. So, actually the evidence for this is still quite anecdotal but has quickly been generalized in literature. However, we have evidence that denning and/or parturition in treefall is not always the common rule in the forests of Belarus, and that lynx denning and kitten raising is very complex and dependent on several factors, of which the most important are protection from the weather (first of all rainfall), mosquitoes and the presence and densities of other predators.
In the Eurasian temperate forest zone, lynxes will first of all specialise in roe deer, when this prey is common. In more northern, boreal regions where roe deer are scarce and hares (mainly mountain hare, to a lesser extent brown hare) are common, lynxes will specialise on hares. When both roe deer and hares, i.e. the ‘preferable’ prey species get scarce, lynxes will consume a diversity of alternative species, but preferred species are still preyed upon. However, under these circumstances, lynxes living in the same area may have strikingly different diets. These individual diets reflect both an opportunistic foraging behaviour and an individual foraging specificity. When the populations of the preferred prey species recover, it takes a few years before lynxes return to their specialised feeding on roe deer and/or hares.
Below we consider the combined impact of lynxes and wolves on the populations of red foxes and raccoon dogs, because their predation effects on the populations of the victim species are hard to separate. First, we list the gained data on the killing rate of red foxes and raccoon dogs by lynxes and wolves from two main different methods i.e. telemetry and snowtracking.
Telemetry – a commonly used standard method to study animal movements – has been used to study lynx in several countries. The method is suitable to answer basic ecological questions such as home range size and (temporal) space-use on a coarse scale. Telemetry on lynxes in northern Belarus has provided us with this basic knowledge. We found that lynxes use extremely small housing spots in summer; not only females with kittens but also adult males.
However, during these telemetry studies, several limitations of this method to study the complicated behaviour of this elusive species became apparent. In fact, the method even leads to severe artefacts (e.g. non-moving behaviour is registered as resting). Continue reading Methodological approach
Hunting from ambuscades is the most commonly used hunting mode of lynxes in Belarus. Ambuscades can be situated in sheltered sites on tree branches or inclined big trees, concealed sites under dense low spruce branches, etc. In the warm (snowless) season, lynxes mainly use arboreal ambuscades. Usually these are inclined trunks of trees (quite often spruces) fallen on other trees (mainly spruces). In winter, especially during snowy periods, lynxes more often use hidden sites on the forest floor, under dense and low spruce branches or at the edge of treefall or thickets. However, both types of ambuscades (at a height in trees or on the forest floor) may be used year-round. In the majority of cases, such an ambush hunt-watching point is situated at prey pathways or at the spots where prey forage rather often.
Another mode of hunting by lynxes involves watching for a short time from an open, elevated spot followed by stalking and a fast attack of the prey. However, this mode is used much less often than hunting from ambuscades. It is mainly applied during long walks, when the lynx is marking its terrain.