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Conservation of lynx in Europe

The lynx is in Europe is classified as “Least Concern” by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), but as “Near Threatened” within the EU member states, as populations in the western part of its range are small and fragmented.

The brown bear is included in Appendix III of The Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (known as the Berne Convention) as a protected species, but in Council Directive 92/43 EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and wild flora and fauna (also known as the Habitats Directive), they are included in Annexe IV as a species in need of strict protection.

An Action Plan for the conservation of lynx in Europe has been adopted by the Berne Convention, and requires trans-boundary management of lynx, and the formulation of national action plans for each country where lynx are present.

Hunting of lynx is still legal, although controlled by quota, in a number of countries, including Sweden, Norway, Latvia, Estonia, Croatia, Slovenia and Romania.

Lynx - Photo R. Morley

Loss of Habitat

Loss of habitat due to forestry activities, development and expansion of agriculture is the main threat to lynx populations. Small isolated populations, such as those in France, Switzerland, Germany and Austria are particularly vulnerable to habitat fragmentation due to road construction - collision with vehicles is a major cause of mortality - and development.

As with other large carnivores, habitat corridors and wildlife crossings on major roads are essential for long-term lynx conservation, along with prevention of deforestation and management of forests to benefit prey species.

Depredation on livestock

Damage to livestock is low, but does occur, mainly affecting sheep farmers and reindeer herders. There is considered to be no danger to humans, although instances of lynx attacking dogs have been reported.

Illegal killing

Illegal killing of lynx occurs across most of its range, often in response to depredation on livestock. Protective measures and payment of compensation can remove the motivation for illegal killing.

Hunting

In countries such as Norway, Croatia and Slovenia, licensed hunting may be compounded by other factors such as poaching and habitat loss, keeping lynx populations at a vulnerable level.

Competition for Game

Competition with hunters, who blame lynx for reductions in abundance of game species such as roe deer, is a source of conflict. Accurate information about lynx numbers and effects on prey species can help reduce this.

Lynx have also been blamed for declining numbers of the protected Tatra chamois, found only in Slovakia.

Loss of Prey Species

As a specialist hunter on small ungulates, lynx are especially vulnerable to changes in prey populations, either through habitat change or human hunting. Management of roe deer and chamois populations and limiting hunting of these species is important to maintain viable lynx populations, particularly in fragmented habitats.

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