May 1 / Animal of the Year 2018
The Animal of the Year 2018 is the extremely beautiful Eurasian Lynx. Although quite widespread in Estonia, their presence remains largely unnoticed due to their low abundance and hidden lifestyle.
Similar to other big predators the presence of the Lynx is often thought to be associated with only empty wild areas of forest, but in Estonia, Lynx is not so fearful of humans. A well-established landscape with fields and forests is also well-suited for the Lynx, and in the darkness, his pathways can pass within the vicinity of quiet human dwellings. A Lynxes territory, which in Estonia is several hundred square kilometers, must be at least half covered with forest, because they prefer to move and hunt within cover of woodlands and also as safe areas to rest and raise their cubs.
A Lynx cub called Illu was one of the first animals in Tallinn Zoo (received as a gift from Finland in 1937) so the Lynx became the iconic animal for the zoo. Lynx have regularly been seen in Matsalu National Park.
The camera of the Animal of the Year is located in the Elistvere animal park, follow the direct stream: http://www.looduskalender.ee/n/en/node/2008#cam
In addition to the forests that provide shelter the Lynx well-being depends on the existence of the prey animals. In Estonia, they feed mainly on Roe Deer, but, if possible, also eat other suitable size mammals like Hares, Beaver, Fox and Raccoon Dogs, or larger birds such as Common Crane and Capercaillie. The mating period in February-March is the only time of the year when adult females and males are in contact with each other, the rest of the time they live independently. Two or three young are born in the second half of May or early June and are looked after by the female alone. In the wild, Lynx live on average 10-15 years.
During the last decade, the Lynx population peaked in 2008, when over 120 Lynx litters were counted in Estonia. The size of the population was then about 800 individuals. Since then, the number of Lynx has declined, and in 2016 there were only 50 to 60 litters in Estonia. The main reason for this may be a sharp decline in the number of Roe Deer (because of extremely cold winters 2010/2011) in combination with hunting of Lynx. Although the Roe Deer population has now recovered, the Lynx population recovery will still take time. Due to the low abundance, in recent years it has not been permitted to hunt Lynx in Estonia.
In 2008, a survey was launched to collect data on the Lynx population. The study is radio-tracking Lynx by satellite providing periodical information on the location of the animal. In addition to the movement of animals, information about Lynx´ nutrition has been collected from the collars. The information gathered from the collars is used also to plot map locations where it is possible to search for remains of prey and learn how often Lynx feed and the effect this has on the abundance of prey animals. Until now, a total of 18 Lynx have been monitored by satellite telemetry, and currently there is one animal with a working collar that lives in Põlva County.
NB! The Polish WWF is hoping to relocate Lynxes from Estonia to the Mazuri region in an effort to restore their presence. According to the Estonian Fund for Nature organization's data, six Eurasian Lynx have been caught and displaced in Estonia since 2012 and they have all found a new habitat in Mazuri forests.