There’s a lynx in my backyard! | WWF

There’s a lynx in my backyard!

Posted on 12 May 2016
Lynx in Switzerland
© Malini Pittet
Spring arrives soon after snow sports have come to an end in the Swiss Alps and the Jura. Picture a Swiss alpine meadow. On the left is a family that hiked up and is now sitting around a fire. On the right, a couple of mountain bikers are hurtling down the slope. Not far away below the tree line, a mother lynx watches over her three kittens.
 
Sharing the same landscape
Who could possibly imagine that all these people are enjoying these activities in the core habitat of deer, wild boar, mountain goat, chamois and the secretive lynx! Humans and wildlife in Switzerland share the same landscape but because they use different aspects of it, they may never encounter each other.
 
It was not always like this. Lynx and other wildlife were wiped out in the 18th century in Switzerland. In 1971 the lynx returned to our landscapes.

The return of the lynx
A group of biologists pioneered a carefully managed reintroduction of the tuft eared feline. A robust scientific monitoring of the population was subsequently put in place and is being carried out even today. Their health, genetic variation and populations are continuously monitored.
 
Whenever possible, lynx kittens are tagged to allow for future identification. A number of adults are collared for in-depth studies to monitor their health and also allow scientists to gain a better understanding of their behaviour. These are precious data that also help scientists understand the requirements to maintain the lynx populations so that they persist in the long term.
 
Today there are about 170 lynx in Switzerland. This number fluctuates. Lynx are sometimes illegally killed by people who see them as hunting competition and as retaliation for livestock losses.
 
Rigorously collected data covering decades show that lynx have a minimal impact on wildlife numbers and almost no impact at all on livestock losses. In 2014, for example, it is estimated that lynx consumed about 7’000 roe deer, while in that year alone over 60’000 roe deer were killed by us humans.
 
vital element in our landscape
The lynx is a top predator and a vital element in the landscape as they help maintain the herbivore population in a way that human hunters cannot. By controlling the population of deer and mountain goats, the risk of over-grazing in meadows and over-browsing of trees is reduced. An uncontrolled population of ungulates can lead to serious economic damage affecting humans sharing their landscape.
 
The need to protect
National and international laws protect the lynx in our landscapes and new initiatives unite all lynx range countries to encourage a harmonious return and the long term presence of lynx across the Alps. The combination of these laws, research and monitoring have allowed the lynx to return to our landscapes and are the key to the persistence of lynx in our backyard. Let's keep them protected!

A story by Malini Pittet, Wildlife biologist, camera trapping specialist, birder, photographer.