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Lynx (Lynx lynx)

This predator was driven to extinction in the UK around 1,000 years ago.

Also known as: Eurasian lynx

Scientific name: Lynx lynx

Family: Felidae

A combination of hunting and deforestation is thought to have driven the UK’s lynx to extinction around 1,300 years ago. Plans to trial the reintroduction of these predators in northern England and the Scottish Borders were recently rejected by the government.

Appearance

A medium-sized member of the cat family, lynx have a distinctive bob-tail and tufts of hair on top of each ear. The species has thick brown-grey fur, which is often covered in black spots. Standing 60–75cm at the shoulder and weighing 15-30kg, they are about as large as a medium-sized dog.

Where and when to spot

Lynx are currently found across Eurasia, from France in the west to Siberia in the east. The species was almost hunted to extinction in western Europe, but a combination of legal protection and reintroductions is helping it to make a slow recovery. A creature of woodland and mountain slopes, lynx hunt via stealth and are rarely seen, even in areas where they are common.

Feeding

Lynx diet varies across its range, but the species tends to focus on roe deer where they are available and it is expected they would be the main prey item should lynx ever be reintroduced to the UK. Also taken are rabbits and hares, rodents, birds and even smaller carnivores like foxes.

With no natural predators, the UK's deer population is thought to be at a 1,000-year high. It has been suggested the reintroduction of lynx would help to manage this population, reducing the negative impact excessive deer numbers can have on woodland and associated species. However, concerns have also been expressed about the potential for lynx to prey on livestock such as sheep.

Did you know?

  • Lynx reintroductions have taken place in a number of European countries, including France, Germany and Switzerland.
  • There are three other lynx species; the bobcat and Canada lynx, which are found in North America, and the Iberian lynx, which lives in Spain and Portugal.
  • The tufts on a lynx’s ears act as a hearing aid, helping it to locate prey.