- Lynx project – GHD 2020-2023
- Balkan Lynx Recovery Programme
- Completed projects
SCENT-MARKING BEHAVIOUR OF EURASIAN LYNX IN THE NORTH-WESTERN SWISS ALPS
Solitary felids occupy large stable home ranges exclusive of individuals of the same sex, but overlapping with mates. Individuals other than females and their dependent offspring have little direct contact. Scent-marking seems to be the most important method for exchanging information. The Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) is a suitable model for research on social and spatial organization of wild felids and olfactory communication by means of urine marks. A lynx population consists of resident males and resident females (mates or neighbours), subadult floaters coming from outside the population, and juvenile or subadult offspring of the mates. Providing and receiving information about social, sexual and physiological status of nearby individuals is essential for all members of a lynx population. However, no in situ study has yet investigated if scent marking is significant for maintaining the socio-spatial system of the species.
Understanding the basic functions of animal populations in a real world is also relevant for their conservation and management. Eurasian lynx live at low densities, but their numeric response to changing prey availability can be considerable and cause conflicts with humans. The Swiss parliament and government allow for eased management interventions in large carnivore populations. The effects of such measures on the socio-spatial structure of the lynx population are, however, not understood. Although we have observed considerable population fluctuations, the spatial expansion of the population is very limited. This is most likely a consequence of mortality caused by humans, the (natural) fragmentation of the landscape, but also of the specific dispersal pattern and land tenure system of the species. In this respect, understanding the social organisation of lynx and the role of scent-marking will help answer questions relevant for conservation and management of this protected species.
The aim of this study in cooperation with the University of Basel was to find out how scent-marking influences the spatial distribution and reproductive behaviour of Eurasian lynx within the population. We also investigated how prey animals react to lynx scent-marks. Furthermore, we identified and quantified the chemical compounds contained in lynx urine and tested in zoos how lynx respond to scent marks.
We used an interdisciplinary approach, applying modern field and lab techniques: GPS-GSM telemetry and automatic cameras to quantify spatial distribution and behaviour in the field, as well as gas chromatography/mass spectrometry to identify and quantify urine content from collected samples.
Results and publications
The results of this study were published in the following publications:
- Vogt K., Zimmermann F., Kölliker M. & Breitenmoser U. 2014. Markierverhalten und soziale Interaktionen in der Luchspopulation in den Nordwestalpen. KORA Bericht Nr. 61, 14 pp.
- Vogt K., Zimmermann F., Kölliker M. & Breitenmoser U. 2014. Scent-marking behaviour and social dynamics in a wild population of Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx. Behavioural Processes 106, 98–106.
- Vogt K. 2016. Geruchliche Kommunikation beim Eurasischen Luchs. Zusammenfassung des Projekts. Schlussbericht Januar 2016, 1–4.
- Vogt K., Boos S., Breitenmoser U. & Kölliker M. 2016. Chemical composition of Eurasian lynx urine conveys information on reproductive state, individual identity, and urine age. Chemoecology 26, 205-217.
- Vogt K., Hofer E., Ryser A., Kölliker M. & Breitenmoser U. 2016. Is there a trade-off between scent marking and hunting behaviour in a stalking predator, the Eurasian lynx, Lynx lynx? Animal Behaviour 117, 59-68.
Projekt duration: 2011-2015
Study area: North-western Alps
- Roe deer project in the Simmental of the University of Zurich
- University of Basel
- Basler Stiftung für Experimentelle Zoologie
- Rockethub Crowdfunding Projekt
- Basler Stiftung für biologische Forschung
Contact KORA: Dr. Kristina Vogt