Where do lynx occur in Switzerland?
The lynx distribution in Switzerland stretches mostly over the Jura mountains and the Alps (with the exception of the southern Alpine valleys) and over north-eastern Switzerland. Current records can be found under Distribution and in the KORA Monitoring Center, respectively.
How many lynx are living in Switzerland and in my canton, respectively?
The current population estimate for the Swiss lynx population, as well as separate estimates for the populations in the Jura mountains and in the Alps, respectively, can be found under Abundance. KORA does not estimate the population per canton, because lynx require very large areas and cross administrative boundaries. Our population estimates are based on density estimates from the deterministic camera trap monitoring in the reference areas.
Why did the lynx go extinct in Switzerland?
In Switzerland, a variety of factors led to the extinction of the large carnivores. Basically, the natural resources were heavily overused in the 19th century. The forest area decreased, and the wild ungulate populations were overhunted and also extirpated with the exception of relatively small, isolated chamois populations. Consequently, livestock depredation increased – even more so because livestock was driven into the remaining forests to browse – and the conflict between humans and large carnivores intensified. The combination of habitat loss, prey depletion and persecution (incl. federal bounties for the killing of large carnivores) led to the extinction of large carnivores in Switzerland at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century.
Where do the lynx in Switzerland originate from? / Why were the lynx reintroduced to Switzerland?
The reintroduction of the lynx in the 1970s was performed with individuals from the Slovakian Carpathian mountains. Animals from the Swiss Jura mountains and Alps were used for the reintroduction into north-eastern Switzerland. The lynx was reintroduced because it is part of the native biodiversity, and because a natural recolonisation was almost impossible. The closest occurrence was in the Carpathian mountains, but because they tend to expand their range only very conservatively, the lynx is an ineffective coloniser. Dispersing individuals establish their home ranges preferably adjacent to existing home ranges of their conspecifics.
Does the lynx even have space in densely populated Switzerland?
Evidently yes, as today’s population and the experiences from the last 50 years are showing. If the lynx finds enough prey and is not persecuted, it can live well in our cultural landscape. A study from 2001 estimated a potential population of ca. 300 lynx in the Swiss Alps. Additionally, some 70–80 individuals can occur in the Jura mountains. In the last decade, some individuals have begun to establish themselves on the Central Plateau, and there has even been some reproduction observed there.
What dangers are the lynx facing nowadays?
The biggest threats for individuals are traffic collisions and illegal killings. The population as a whole is additionally threatened by habitat fragmentation, and genetic impoverishment combined with the risk of negative consequences from inbreeding (see Losses, and report 50 years of lynx in Switzerland).
What is the influence of the lynx on its prey?
The effects in ecosystems influenced by predators are highly complex. There are studies showing positive as well as negative effects. We distinguish between a direct (numerical) impact on the abundance and demography of the prey populations (roe deer and chamois) on the one hand, and an indirect impact (e.g. on the distribution of the prey in the landscape) on the other hand. An adult lynx requires approximately 55 roe deer or chamois per year, a female with cubs approximately 70 per year. The influence of the lynx on prey populations depends on both the lynx density, and the status of the prey populations. KORA has performed various studies on the diet of lynx in Switzerland (see Completed projects, or report 50 years of lynx in Switzerland). This data – in combination with cantonal data on hunting and natural mortalities – show the spectrum of the size of the impact. Generally, the impact is small to moderate. Under particular conditions (e.g. high lynx density with a simultaneously decreasing roe deer population as a consequence from hunting and harsh winters), the impact of the lynx can be high and, for example, surpass the impact of hunting. Such a situation was only found in Switzerland in the north-western Alps between 1997 and 2001, so far. KORA has also performed a specific study on the impact of the lynx on the chamois population in the Bernese Oberland and to compare it to the impact of hunting. On average, the impact of hunting was judged to be more significant than the impact of lynx. In addition to predation, there are “non-lethal effects”, i.e. an influence on the behaviour of the prey, e.g. their location and vigilance and consequently on their habitat use.
How many livestock animals are killed by lynx per year?
Between 2005 and 2016, the number of livestock animals killed by lynx varied between 20 and 50. In the last years, this number has risen to ca. 85 animals per year (see also Depredation).
Does the lynx present a danger to humans?
No, the lynx is not dangerous for humans. Since the reintroduction in the 1970s, there has been no noteworthy incident. Even lynx that are cornered do not attack humans. However, there are some known incidents of aggression towards dogs. In those cases they found themselves – probably mostly by chance – in the vicinity of females with cubs, particularly during the hunting season.
Is the lynx even necessary?
This question is often asked for animal species, whose presence is not approved by all people. The lynx is part of the native fauna. As a top predator, it plays a significant part in the interactions of species and habitats, and the corresponding evolutionary processes. As such, it is an integral part of the biodiversity which is the foundation also of our existence.