The lynx is a solitary cat which lives in the remote forests of northern Europe, Asia, and North America. The name “lynx” originated from a Greek word meaning “light” or “brightness”, presumably in reference to the luminescence of the lynx’s reflective eyes.
There are three sub-species of lynx. The Eurasian Lynx (sometimes called the Siberian Lynx) is native to European and Siberian forests. The Canadian Lynx is native to the forests and tundra regions of Canada and Alaska, as well as the Rocky Mountains of the United State. The Iberian Lynx is native to the Iberian Peninsula in Southern Europe and is the most endangered cat species in the world.
The lynx’s life expectancy is between 10 and 15 years in the wild and around 20 years in captivity.
The Eurasian Lynx is the largest member of the lynx family, growing to between 40 and 65 pounds. The Canadian Lynx is typically smaller, ranging from 20 to 30 pounds. The Iberian Lynx is similar in weight, though taller on average that the Canadian Lynx.
Lynx have short tails and characteristic tufts of black hair on the tips of their ears. Their fur varies from medium brown to gold-ish to beige-white and is typically marked with dark brown spots. The fur is typically white on their undersides. The lynx’s coat gets progressively thicker and lighter in color in the colder northern climates.
Lynx have large padded paws which act like snowshoes for traveling on the snow. These paws get progressively larger and more padded as you move further north within their range.
Lynx inhabit high altitude forests with dense cover of shrubs, reeds, and tall grass. Although they hunt on the ground, lynx can climb trees and swim swiftly, catching fish. Several resettlement programs have had some success in reintroducing the lynx to its former range throughout Europe and in the Rocky Mountains of the western United States.
Like most wild cats, lynx are very stealthy, avoiding humans and typically hunting at night. They are skilled hunters that make use of great hearing (aided by the tufts on their ears) and eyesight. The lynx’s eyesight is so strong that it can spot a mouse from up to 250 feet away. Their main method of hunting is stalking, sneaking, and jumping on prey. They are also known to be ambush predators when conditions are suitable.
The lynx’s prey species vary with their location, but they tend to prefer smaller animals, such as mice, squirrels, birds, and most often snowshoe hares. The larger Eurasian Lynx will sometimes hunt deer and other larger prey, particularly when snow conditions make the hunting of smaller animals more difficult.
Lynx have many distinct vocalizations. Like other cats, lynx will mew, hiss, and growl. They also yowl, chatter, and purr. One of the more unique sounds that they make is a woo-woo that can sound very much like an owl. Sir, one of our resident lynx, makes this sound quite often from his enclosure at the top of the hill.