Will the lynx ever become a permanent resident of the Netherlands?
The lynx, a large cat, is increasingly seen in the Netherlands in 2017. This mainly concerns the border areas with Belgium and Germany. Lynxes are extremely territorial, living in an area of at least two hundred square kilometers. In such an area there is one male and one female. Lynxes are resistant to cold and are quiet hunters. They mainly hunt small prey such as hares and pheasants, but can also easily kill a deer. Even though lynxes have been spotted a number of times in the Netherlands since the year 2000, experts remain pessimistic about his return: the Netherlands is simply too small for lynxes. But why are they getting closer and closer?
A lynx belongs to the feline and grows to between eighty and 130 centimeters long and weighs between eighteen and 25 kilos. Due to its thick fur and characteristic sideburns, the lynx can easily tolerate cold. The lynx prefers to live in dense coniferous forests with dense ground cover. Lynxes are good climbers and are therefore also found in mountain areas up to two thousand meters. Lynxes are territorial and live in an area of at least 200 to sometimes more than a thousand square meters. During the day they don’t show much. They usually don’t hunt before dusk. A lynx prefers to live in burrows in rock walls or in the ground.
Lynxes are not among the best hunters of all felines in the world. Only one in six lynx attacks is successful. That is why the lynx prefers to stick to small prey such as hares or rodents. A prey is quietly stalked from behind and with a big jump the lynx grabs its prey by the throat. Large prey such as deer are attacked from above. A lynx can sit still in a tree for hours, waiting for the right moment. However, a deer is a big prey for the feline. A lynx does not eat more than one kilo per day.
As indicated, lynxes are (severely) territorial. It is therefore their biggest daytime activity to guard this territory. Studies have shown that a lynx analyzes its territory several times every day for activities. If he finds a dead animal, he goes in search of the attacker. If he finds traces such as excrement or prints, he does not rest until he knows which resident this is. But the fact that he’s actually such a bad attacker means he’s constantly on the lookout for new habitat. A hare that has been attacked by a lynx automatically becomes more attentive. Ultimately, all animals are so attentive and aware of its presence that the lynx has to look for another area. Hence its large territory.
A female is less than eighty days pregnant and gives birth to between one and five young per litter. The young do not open their eyes for the first time until after sixteen to seventeen days. The male provides food for the first two months. He then leaves the nest, while the young ones stay with their mother for another ten months. A lynx usually lives between 15 and 20 years old.
The lynx is found in the forests of Eastern Europe and North and Central Asia. The largest population lives in the forests of Siberia. Since the end of the twentieth century, the lynx has become more common in the rest of Europe. About 500 individuals now live in Norway and Finland has about 1,200. Sweden also has more than twelve hundred. In France, the Lynx is more limited, but at least a hundred can be counted as permanent residents. In Germany the number is less clear: there is talk of tens to just over a hundred. In Belgium, lynxes are regularly spotted in the Ardennes.
The growing population in the relatively smaller habitats seems to indicate that the Eurasian lynx is adapting to the smaller forests and the impact of humans. They also increasingly share areas with other animal species such as wolves, but try to avoid them as much as possible.
The lynx in the Netherlands: is it possible?
Lynxes are not unknown in the Netherlands. Until 1890 they were permanent residents of the Netherlands. However, the hunt for these felines has ensured that they, along with the wolves, withdrew from the Netherlands. However, since 1999 there have been multiple sightings of lynx in the Netherlands. Three of these took place in Limburg. Another sighting, in 2009, was in Drenthe.
The habitat is there
According to experts, a lynx could live fine in the Netherlands. The climate is favorable and there is plenty of food. The Netherlands has a number of dense forests, as well as open fields. Think of the Veluwe. A research report by Ark Nature Development, commissioned by Habitat Europe, shows that a population of up to twenty lynxes would be fine in this nature reserve. This in combination with the population that is located in Northern France, Belgium and parts of Limburg, the lynx would have possibilities for a successful return to the Netherlands.
In addition, hundreds of deer, roe deer, hares and wild boars are shot every year in the Veluwe to reduce the population. Even if a lynx does not often hunt for prey of this size, its arrival would still affect the ecosystem. Deer, roe deer and wild boars will need to be more attentive, as will hares. For example, they would no longer be able to leave the nest with their young without any care. A real predator that is fairly high in the food chain has been missing in the Netherlands for decades.
Prefer not to be a predator
However, there is also a lot of criticism of the research report. For example, Hugh Jansman of Alterra states that the Netherlands would be too overcrowded for the return of the lynx. The Dutch prefer not to share the land with a dangerous predator. Not that a lynx would attack an adult out of the blue, but smaller and lonely children can be endangered. Farmers also prefer not to have felines. Free-roaming chickens or newborn calves are potential prey for a lynx.
No rock walls in the Netherlands
Lynxes prefer to live in burrows in rocks or in dense soil. Because both are limited in the Netherlands, burrows have to be constructed. This costs a lot of money and can damage nature. In addition, it is not certain that a lynx will actually use the created burrows.
The Netherlands is too small
The territorial aspect is also a point of criticism. Because what if the Netherlands has made every effort to get the lynx here and after a few weeks they are all gone. Wouldn’t that be a waste of effort, time and money? And there is a good chance, since Germany has even more to offer than the Netherlands.
The conclusion is clear: the lynx can live well in the Netherlands with some adaptations, the question is whether they will actually stay in the Netherlands.
It is not only speculation about the regular return of the lynx. For example, a jackal was also spotted in the Netherlands in 2016, as well as wolves. Who knows, moose from East Germany may also enter the Netherlands in a few years’ time. Raccoon dogs seem to be increasingly taking over the Netherlands and are being watched closely because of the diseases they can transmit. Since the beginning of this century, the sea eagle has also been breeding in the Netherlands. Which animals can the Netherlands expect more?