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Unknown Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx: New findings on the species ecology and behaviour

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In this monograph, we present new findings and hypotheses on Eurasian lynx ecology and behaviour. Initially, we used a traditional approach to study lynxes in the wild, with telemetry as one of the main research methods. However, as several artefacts and shortcomings of this method to study lynx behaviour became apparent, we gradually elaborated a new, non-invasive method based on tracking and reading of lynx activity signs, in combination with extensive, ‘smart’ camera trapping. This approach yielded interesting and surprising results, strikingly different from what was known before; for example: lynxes are much more social than what is generally believed, mainly hunt from ambuscades and interfere strongly with wolves. Adult males guard small spots of sheltered mating habitat during the whole cold season and these spots are so important they mainly determine winter home range usage. Several other details of mating behaviour were revealed, for example: males climb high in trees to emit mating calls. These and many other findings are strongly related to the local conditions in our non-rocky study areas in the temperate forests of Belarus. Indeed, a lot of the current knowledge on lynx behaviour and ecology is based on research carried out in rocky or mountainous areas, while the largest part of the Eurasian lynx range is non-rocky. The research is still on-going and we will publish a comprehensive book on lynx ecology in Belarus in a few years but we wanted to share the new findings and current hypotheses already at this stage of the research. Each chapter starts with a statement based on our findings, the statement is followed by a short literature review regarding the topic, an assumption on why the topic has not been studied yet, and finally our own data and information sources, among which many photo documentations.
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... In 2017-2018, after a row of interesting new results on lynxes, we began to realize that many basic ecological and behavioural traits of the species are unknown, whereas the commonly spread knowledges about the Eurasian lynx are insufficiently detailed and often not entirely correct. This explains the choice of the title of the pilot book on the ecology and behaviour of the Eurasian lynx that we have published in 2018 (Sidorovich et al., 2018). In that pilot book, we called the species as unknown one. ...
... In fact, our results are so distinctive from the results by our Polish colleagues in the nearby Bielaviezha Forest. That supports our conclusion of 2018 that the Eurasian lynx was still unknown in many questions (Sidorovich et al., 2018). ...
... Another important role of trees in the life of lynxes is usage of elevated positions in tall trees to emit territorial and mating calls. During the winter of 2017-2018 in Naliboki Forest we have found that lynxes climbed rather high Scotch pine trees (Sidorovich et al., 2018). In total, during February and March 2018, we registered four such trees, on which adult male lynxes climbed for about 17-26 meters high. ...
Book
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This scientific book gives the results of the long-term studies on the Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx in Belarus, mainly in Naliboki Forest and Paazierre Forest. Population structure, breeding, diet and prey supply as well as the variety of behavioural traits were considered. Among behavioural questions there were investigated sociality, hunting modes, mating and denning behaviour, territorial marking, sheltering and interspecific interference. The monograph presents not only the regional aspects of lynx biology, but also includes many new findings for the Eurasian lynx overall.
... Our data did not support the 'Social tolerance' hypothesis: neither contact, nor non-contact social play had higher frequency in domestic cat than in other two felids, they were quite similar. It could be related to plasticity of felids social structure (Turner, 2000;Sidorovich et al., 2018). Actually relation between sociality and social play is also very contradictory or absent in many species (canids: Biben, 1983; muroid rodents: Pellis & Iwaniuk, 1999;primates: Poirier & Smith, 1974). ...
... Various differences in species biology could influence the species-specific timing of developmental periods and changes of play. From two-three months lynx kittens learn to kill and eat small prey (Naidenko, 2005), start to follow mother in the wild (Molinari & Molinari-Jobin, 2001;Naidenko, 2001;Zimmermann et al., 2005;Sidorovich et al., 2018). In enclosures, lynx females increase their vocal activity in this period and it can be attributed to efforts to keep the family together in a forest (Rutovskaya & Naidenko, 2006). ...
Article
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Social play in young mammals reflects behavioral development, play can be affected by differences in development timing and species biology. We compared social play frequency changes in three felids: Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), Amur subspecies of leopard cat (Far-Eastern wildcat) (Prionailurus bengalensis euptilurus) and domestic cat (Felis catus). Social play is often expected to increase social tolerance and cohesion in a litter. Socially living domestic cat had contact and non-contact social play rates at the same level as solitary lynx and leopard cat. Whereas lynx differed from the other felids in lower social play rates at the age from one to one and a half month. Two types of social play were changing differently. Non-contact play rates, attributed to predatory skills development, were synchronized among species by age of kittens. Whereas contact play changes, attributed to communication development, were sensitive to the developmental stage. Contact play intensified in lynx much later than in the other felids probably due to a later onset of weaning. The period of extraordinary low contact play rates coincided with the onset of spontaneous sibling aggression, unique for lynx. After a period of spontaneous sibling aggression contact play rates in lynx increased to the level that other felids had. Observed social play changes and differences reflect development timing and species-specific features in felids.
... Une étude simultanée des deux prédateurs avec des intervalles courts de géolocalisation serait particulièrement intéressante dans des contextes où les densités de proies seraient plus faibles et où les disponibilités en ongulés de plus grande taille seraient limitées. Enfin, l'étude menée en forêt de Naliboki, en Biélorussie, vient apporter des éléments qui suggèrent qu'au contraire ce serait le Lynx qui pourrait avoir plus d'impact sur le Loup que l'inverse, avec des attaques mortelles sur des portées de loups, des femelles gravides, des individus affaiblis, un évitement des sites fréquentés par les lynx mais aussi une forte interférence des loups sur les carcasses de proies tuées par les lynx (Sidorovich et al., 2018). ...
Technical Report
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Le Lynx boréal est une espèce protégée au niveau international par la Convention de Berne relative à la conservation de la vie sauvage et du milieu naturel de l’Europe de 1979, et par la Directive 92/43/CEE dite « Habitats-Faune-Flore » où il est classé comme espèce d’intérêt communautaire prioritaire. En France, il bénéficie d’une protection totale via l’arrêté ministériel du 23 avril 2007 fixant la liste des mammifères terrestres protégés sur l’ensemble du territoire et les modalités de leur protection. Dans la Liste rouge nationale établie selon les critères de l’Union Internationale pour la Conservation de la Nature (UICN), il est classé « En Danger ». Fin 2017, le Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (MNHN) considérait que la tendance de population était à la « diminution ». Cette situation a conduit à l’émergence de plusieurs initiatives sous forme de plan en faveur de la conservation de l’espèce portées par des organisations telles le Centre de Recherche et d’Observation sur les Carnivores (CROC) qui a initié dès 2016 le Programme Lynx massif des Vosges (PLMV devenu depuis le Plan Régional d’Actions en faveur du Lynx dans le massif des Vosges) ou le WWF qui a confié à la SFEPM la rédaction d’un Plan d’Actions pour la Conservation du Lynx (PNCL) en 2018. Afin de contribuer aux exigences de la loi pour la reconquête de la biodiversité, de la nature et des paysages du 8 août 2016, le Ministère en charge de l’écologie a en parallèle mandaté le Préfet de la région Bourgogne-Franche-Comté pour élaborer un Plan National d’Actions (PNA) en s’appuyant sur le travail de coordination de la Direction Régionale de l’Environnement, de l’Aménagement et du Logement (DREAL) Bourgogne-Franche-Comté et de rédaction de l’Office Français de la Biodiversité (OFB). La stratégie à long terme en faveur du Lynx boréal en France se donne pour objectif de rétablir l’espèce dans un bon état de conservation sur l’ensemble de son aire de présence actuelle et les nouveaux espaces de colonisation spontanée. La mise en œuvre de cette stratégie s’appuiera sur des objectifs progressifs et, pour certains, différenciés selon les massifs. Ce premier PNA vise à rétablir l’état de conservation de l’espèce sur 5 ans, sans réintroduction, ni régulation et dont les objectifs sont : • l’amélioration de la connaissance de la dynamique de l’espèce sur l’ensemble des massifs où le Lynx est présent, en particulier sur le massif alpin, ainsi que sur les zones récentes de recolonisation ; • sur le massif jurassien et le massif alpin, le maintien/rétablissement d’une dynamique démographique interannuelle positive ; • .sur le massif des Vosges, où le Lynx boréal est en danger critique d’extinction, car ses effectifs sont très faibles, l’enrayement de la dynamique démographique négative, en travaillant prioritairement à l’amélioration de la perception de l’espèce par les acteurs locaux. Ce document priorise les actions nécessaires sur un horizon de 5 ans, tout en identifiant des actions qui contribueront ultérieurement à la stratégie d’expansion géographique de l’aire de présence du Lynx et la viabilité à long terme sur le territoire national.
Technical Report
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Eurasian lynx is the largest felid in Europe, where many populations still face extinction. Major threats include poaching, inbreeding depression, vehicle collisions, habitat loss and fragmentation. To preserve viability of these populations, further efforts are required, including an efficient monitoring that represents an important part of any successful conservation program. In this report we first provide an overview of methods used for lynx monitoring across Europe with their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, as well as differences in their implementation among the different regions. In the second part, we highlight several good practices in various conservation actions aimed to address the major threats to lynx populations. Several field methods and analytical tools have been developed for monitoring of lynx populations. While opportunistic data collection can be efficient in terms of effort and cost, it can introduce bias and reduce the quality of final results. Therefore data should preferably be collected systematically using methods like camera trapping, snow tracking, hair trapping and other types of genetic sampling, systematic distribution of questionnaires, recording of mortality records, and telemetry. Based on the review of 125 publications and direct communication with lynx experts, we prepared an overview of monitoring programs in each country. Most countries use a combination of several methods and many are starting to conduct systematic monitoring. While some of the methods are an obvious choice for specific areas, there is no single method that could be generally recommended for all populations and every context. Camera trapping in combination with (spatial) capture-recapture analysis is currently the method of choice for obtaining robust estimates of lynx abundance in many regions, with the exception of populations with large proportion of unspotted individuals, which prevents individual recognition. Recent trends in monitoring programs also indicate increasing involvement of volunteers in monitoring programs and initiatives to synchronize lynx monitoring at the transboundary level. Given the threatened status of many populations and relatively poor dispersing abilities of the species, active conservation remains essential for long-term survival and recovery of the lynx in Europe. Reintroductions and reinforcement programs continue to play crucial role in lynx conservation and we describe two ongoing projects aimed to create vital populations in areas where lynx have become extinct or drastically reduced. Besides translocating lynx, it is essential that such projects also address other aspects, such as preventing poaching, involving stakeholders and increasing public support for lynx conservation. Such examples include creation of specialized police units, involvement of hunters in monitoring programs and creation of local consultative groups. Inspiring example of transboundary collaboration is the Balkan lynx Recovery Programme, where a group of leading experts from one country provided their expertise to establish a successful research and conservation program in another country with limited capacities. To successfully prevent livestock depredations it is important to test which methods are effective and which are not in order to provide knowledge that can be implemented when the need arises. Although many of these activities are costly and demand considerable effort, recent success stories show that such investments are well worth making. They help us to safeguard survival of lynx in human-dominated landscapes of Europe, where hopefully one day translocations and similar human interventions will no longer be needed.
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Predation, one of the most dramatic interactions in animals' lives, has long fascinated ecologists. This volume presents carnivores, raptors and their prey in the complicated net of interrelationships, and shows them against the background of their biotic and abiotic settings. It is based on long-term research conducted in the best preserved woodland of Europe's temperate zone. The role of predation, whether limiting or regulating prey (ungulate, rodent, shrew, bird, and amphibian) populations, is quantified and compared to parts played by other factors: climate, food resources for prey, and availability of other potential resources for predators.
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Cost-benefit trade-offs for individuals participating in social behaviors are the basis for current theories on the evolution of social behaviors and societies. However, research on social strategies has largely ignored solitary animals, in which we assume that rare interactions are explained by courtship or territoriality or, in special circumstances, resource distributions or kinship. We used directed network analysis of conspecific tolerance at food sources to provide evidence that a solitary carnivore, the puma (Puma concolor), exhibited adaptive social strategies similar to more social animals. Every puma in our analysis participated in the network, which featured densely connected communities delineated by territorial males. Territorial males also structured social interactions among pumas. Contrary to expectations, conspecific tolerance was best characterized by direct reciprocity, establishing a fitness benefit to individuals that participated in social behaviors. However, reciprocity operated on a longer time scale than in gregarious species. Tolerance was also explained by hierarchical reciprocity, which we defined as network triangles in which one puma (generally male) received tolerance from two others (generally females) that also tolerated each other. Hierarchical reciprocity suggested that males might be cheating females; nevertheless, we suspect that males and females used different fitness currencies. For example, females may have benefited from tolerating males through the maintenance of social niches that support breeding opportunities. Our work contributes evidence of adaptive social strategies in a solitary carnivore and support for the applicability of theories of social behavior across taxa, including solitary species in which they are rarely tested.
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Apex predators may affect mesopredators through intraguild predation and/or supply of carrion from their prey, causing a trade-off between avoidance and attractiveness. We used wildlife triangle snow-tracking data to investigate the abundance of red fox (Vulpes vulpes) in relation to lynx (Lynx lynx) and wolf (Canis lupus) occurrence as well as land composition and vole (Microtus spp.) density. Data from the Swedish wolf-monitoring system and VHF/GPS-collared wolves were used to study the effect of wolf pack size and time since wolf territory establishment on fox abundance. Bottom-up processes were more influential than top-down effects as the proportion of arable land was the key indicator of fox abundance at the landscape level. At this spatial scale, there was no effect of wolf abundance on fox abundance, whereas lynx abundance had a positive effect. In contrast, at the wolf territory level there was a negative effect of wolves on fox abundance when including detailed information of pack size and time since territory establishment, whereas there was no effect of lynx abundance. This study shows that different apex predator species may affect mesopredator abundance in different ways and that the results may be dependent on the spatiotemporal scale and resolution of the data.
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Scent marking is an important aspect of social organization and intraspecific communication for many mammals, including solitary felids. By selecting specific micro-locations for scent marking, an individual may increase its success in defending its territory and finding mates. Few studies, however, have reported the selection of scent-marking objects and sites by wild felids. To improve our understanding of this behavior and its adaptive significance, we developed and tested a set of mutually non-exclusive hypotheses explaining selection of scent-marking objects by Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx). We used snow tracking to locate and determine the characteristics of objects lynx used and selected for urine spraying. Lynx did not mark objects according to their availability but selected juvenile conifers and often marked the surface that was sheltered from the elements (“persistence hypothesis”). Lynx also selected for objects similar in size to lynx and objects located on straight road sections and avoided the most frequently available object types. This selection may have both promoted detectability of the messages by the conspecifics (“detection hypothesis”) and reduced energy expenditure of marking (“accessibility hypothesis”). Our study also indicated trade-offs faced by lynx, as the preferred marking objects were often not readily available. Therefore, suboptimal marking objects were sometimes used, most likely in order to maintain the high scent-marking frequency needed throughout their territory. We suggest that Eurasian lynx, and possibly other solitary felids, developed scent-marking behaviors that increase effectiveness and efficiency of their communication. Significance statement Scent marking is a form of communication that serves several purposes and allows the signals of the sender to reach a receiver indirectly. Persistence and detectability of these signals can have high adaptive value for solitary felids since the signals are essential for advertising territories for competitors and mates. Although both of these uses may depend on the micro-location where scent is deposited, the majority of studies have focused only on the marking sites used by felids and not on their availability or selection. By snow tracking Eurasian lynx, we showed that scent-marking sites most often used are not necessarily the same as the sites selected. We also provide insights into possible adaptive features of felid scent-marking and the possible mechanisms behind the selection of marking objects which likely serve to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of scent marking.
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The greatest threat to the protected Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) in Central Europe is human-induced mortality. As the availability of lynx prey often peaks in human-modified areas, lynx have to balance successful prey hunting with the risk of encounters with humans. We hypothesized that lynx minimize this risk by adjusting habitat choices to the phases of the day and over seasons. We predicted that (1) due to avoidance of human-dominated areas during daytime, lynx range use is higher at nighttime, that (2) prey availability drives lynx habitat selection at night, whereas high cover, terrain inaccessibility, and distance to human infrastructure drive habitat selection during the day, and that (3) habitat selection also differs between seasons, with altitude being a dominant factor in winter. To test these hypotheses, we analyzed telemetry data (GPS, VHF) of 10 lynx in the Bohemian Forest Ecosystem (Germany, Czech Republic) between 2005 and 2013 using generalized additive mixed models and considering various predictor variables. Night ranges exceeded day ranges by more than 10%. At night, lynx selected open habitats, such as meadows, which are associated with high ungulate abundance. By contrast, during the day, lynx selected habitats offering dense understorey cover and rugged terrain away from human infrastructure. In summer, land-cover type greatly shaped lynx habitats, whereas in winter, lynx selected lower altitudes. We concluded that open habitats need to be considered for more realistic habitat models and contribute to future management and conservation (habitat suitability, carrying capacity) of Eurasian lynx in Central Europe.
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Age at primiparity is a flexible life-history trait that purportedly responds to changing population dynamics and variable resource abundance. We examined placental scars in yearling Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis (Kerr, 1792)) from the island of Newfoundland and used pregnancy rates and litter sizes to indicate primiparity. We modelled these lynx productivity data with snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus Erxleben, 1777) population attributes using seven multiple a priori competing hypotheses. Hare abundance showed peak, decline, and increase phases, and densities based on capture–mark–recapture estimates ranged from 0.11 to 1.19 hares·ha-1. Overall, yearling pregnancy rate was 23.5% and the model with hare abundance fitted alone had the most support. However, surprisingly hare abundance explained little (6%) variation in yearling pregnancy rate. Mean (±SE) litter size was 3.51 ± 0.27. None of our covariate models provided unequivocal support for predicting yearling litter size. We speculate that individuals may exhibit behavioural plasticity such that they can dampen the impact of primary prey abundance on yearling pregnancy rate by exploiting alternate prey. Furthermore, intraspecific social interactions may provide additional insight into the determinants of pregnancy rate in yearling lynx.
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This scientific monograph gives a detailed information about population ecology of the endangered carnivore species, the badger Meles meles and the alien naturalized invader, the raccoon dog Nyctereutes procyonoides in Belarus. The badger population decline is considered in a tight connection with the multi-impact of raccoon dogs as well as other factors of the demise in badgers.
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Human development, such as construction of roads and trails, can affect several animal behaviour traits and is increasing worldwide. Despite the importance of scent marking for communication and social organization in many mammals, it is not clearly understood how scent marking is affected by human habitat modification. We used snow tracking data collected across six winters to study the effects of road infrastructure on the marking behaviour of Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) in a human-dominated landscape. We found that lynx marked at higher rates (11.2 urine sprays/km) on human routes (forest roads and logging trails) than when walking in natural habitat (5.8 sprays/km). This pattern was noted in both sexes, although males walked on human routes more frequently and scent marked more often than females. Compared to previous studies the mean marking rates we observed were the highest documented so far for wild felids. This may mainly be due to regular use of human routes (42% of all lynx movement) and the high scent marking rates found thereon. Human routes channelize lynx movement, and scent marking on these routes likely increases the probability of the chemical message being received by a conspecific; therefore human routes might enable more effective communication in territorial felids. Since most of the landscapes worldwide are covered by road networks and various human objects, the marking behaviour of wild mammals may be profoundly changed due to human-caused habitat modifications.