Lynxes are medium-sized predatory cats, which are also occasionally known as “bobcats.” These cats are characterized by small tufts of hair jutting from the tips of their ears. Different species of this cat range from North America to Eurasia. Read on to learn about the lynx.
Description of the Lynx
These medium-sized cats range in weight from 7-66 lbs., depending on the species. They have short tails, hence the name “bobcat” for the U.S. variety. Their most recognizable feature is the tufts of hair jutting from the tips of their ears. Fur color varies by species, and ranges from tan to dark gray, with dark spots or stripes. Their chests and stomachs have white or cream colored fur.
Interesting Facts About the Lynx
These striking cats are skilled predators. They are well-adapted to living in a number of different habitats, and have many specific traits to aid in their survival.
- The Quartet – These cats have their own taxonomic genus. There are four different species of cats in the “lynx” genus, Canadian lynx, bobcat, Eurasian lynx, and Iberian lynx.
- Built in Snowshoes – Species native to harsh winters, such as Canadian and Eurasian lynxes, are well-adapted to cold weather. They have thick fur coats to protect them, and even their feet have hair! These wily cats spread their large paws out to use as snowshoes on fluffy snow.
- Tufted Ears – All four species of this cat have tufts of hair on their ears, though scientists are unsure what purpose this hair serves. Some theorize that the hair is used to detect objects over the animal’s head, while others suspect it may increase hearing in some way.
- Skilled Predators – Lynxes are capable of some pretty impressive hunting. They can catch small birds and mammals easily, and have even been known to catch birds in midair. These cats will also prey on larger animals, like deer, if the animal is young or sick.
Habitat of the Lynx
Lynxes prefer to live in higher altitudes, typically in mountain ranges. They also tend to stick to densely vegetated areas with lots of shrubs, bushes, tall grass, and trees. Heavy vegetation provides cover for the animals while they stalk prey. They live mostly in temperate regions, and are infrequently found towards the polar or tropical zones.
Distribution of the Lynx
In North America, three different species of Lynx can be found across most of Canada and the United States. They can also be found in northern Mexico. Across the pond (so to speak), they are found from Northern Europe, all the way into Asia. They can be found from Northern Pakistan to India, as well as throughout the Mount Damavand area in Iran.
Diet of the Lynx
These sleek predators will hunt a wide variety of animals, depending on prey availability. They commonly eat voles, grouse, ptarmigans, turkeys, snowshoe hares, mice, squirrels, fish, foxes, sheep, and goats. They have also been known to eat a few different species of deer when presented with the opportunity, namely sick or young animals.
Lynx and Human Interaction
Lynx and human interactions are rarely positive. The cats have been hunted across species and time for their thick fur. They are also frequently hunted for sport, similar to foxes. It is approximated that half of some North American population deaths are a result of hunting.
They are also threatened by urbanization. As humans continue to spread and develop land, populations of these cats become fragmented, which can cause inbreeding in populations. Despite extensive hunting and land development, many species of the animal have stable populations, most being listed as “least concern” by the IUCN Red List. The Iberian lynx is the only species listed as endangered.
No species of this predatory cat has been domesticated in any fashion.
Does the Lynx Make a Good Pet
While they are not as large as other felines, lynxes still have sharp teeth and claws. It is not advisable, and possibly illegal, depending on your location, to own one as a pet.
In zoos, lynx must be provided with plenty of space to exercise. They are typically given opportunities to swim and climb, in addition to other environmental enrichment. In zoos, these animals are also provided with access to medical care, and a balanced diet. They are fed a commercial zoo carnivore diet, rabbits, rats, and occasionally beef heart.
Behavior of the Lynx
Lynxes are mainly solitary animals, and normally only interact during breeding season. As nocturnal animals, they roam alone at night in search of food. During the day they will seek shelter, such as a cave or hollow tree, and sleep. When breeding season rolls around (timing varies by species) they will begin to search for mates.
Reproduction of the Lynx
The mother lynx will construct a den and fill it with soft leaves before giving birth. There are normally between 1 and 4 kittens in a litter, and they are born with their eyes and ears closed. The kittens will nurse for 4 or 5 months, and can fend for themselves at 10 months old. Even though they are independent, the kittens will commonly remain with their mother until they are a year old.