Enigma of denning in lynxes

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.

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Individual diet specificity under abnormal prey supply (Naliboki Forest)

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.

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Impact of lynxes and wolves on foxes and raccoon dogs

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.

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Research notes

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.

Methodological approach

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 modes of lynxes in Belarus

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.

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Social behaviour

Lynxes are considered as strictly solitary carnivores. Social contacts between adults are believed to be limited to mating season. Yet there have been some records of (prolonged) social contact between adult lynxes outside mating season, mostly from snow tracking. During telemetry research in other countries, adults (mostly male-female) have been occasionally found in each other’s vicinity outside mating season. Because this is considered to be highly exceptional this does not receive much attention and the details of this behaviour remain unknown.
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