Relationship between prey availability and population dynamics of the Eurasian lynx and its diet in northern Belarus
The diet and population dynamics of the Eurasian lynxLynx lynx Linnaeus, 1758 as well as an index of its main prey abundance were studied in transitional mixed forests of northern Belarus in 1985-2004. Monitoring of the lynx population and its main potential prey (the mountain hareLepus timidus, and the roe deerCapreolus capreolus) was done by snow-tracking. Also, abundance of tetraonids (Tetraonidae) was monitored by sight count. Hare numbers were fairly stable during the study period, whereas density of the roe deer population markedly increased, and tetraonids decreased. Composition of the lynx diet was stable seasonally. Lynx fed mostly on hares, roe deer and birds (usually tetraonids) year-round. However, the share of roe deer in lynx diet increased significantly during the period of its higher abundance and the share of tetraonids decreased with their decreasing numbers. There was also a remarkable increase of lynx population, which followed that of the roe deer, despite the pronounced decline of tetraonids. The results of the study emphasised the importance of roe deer as a prey of the Eurasian lynx.