Lynx • Lynx lynx

Lynx with cub

Lynx were on the way to becoming extinct in Sweden in the early 20th century – the final few became protected in 1927. The lynx population grew, and in the 1970s it was thought that the future looked promising for lynx survival in Sweden. Later, their population fell again, and renewed protection has led to an increase in lynx numbers.


The lynx is part of the felidae (cat) family. They are usually classed as small cats, or felinae.


The lynx looks like a giant domestic cat with long powerful legs and tufted ears. They have short tails and a ruff under the neck; their fur is yellowy brown, and sometimes spotted.

In the winter, the lynx develops a thick warm winter coat and its large hairy paws act as snowshoes.


Lynx are solitary animals and often roam across large areas. They mainly live in untouched forests, but have recently spread to mountain areas.

They only eat meat from prey that they catch themselves. Here in Sweden they mostly hunt hare and roe deer, but sometimes catch fox and grouse.

In Scandinavia each lynx can have a territory that covers more than 1,000 sq km.

Lynx hunt by creeping up on their prey. Then after a few quick leaps, it pounces onto its prey and bites it to death. If it fails, the lynx does not pursue the prey over long distances. Lynx are most active at dusk. They spend the daytime resting among cliffs and rocks, preferably somewhere with a good overview of their surroundings.

The female rears her cubs alone; they stay with her until they are about one year old.

Reasons for decline

For a long time, lynx were hunted for their fur. The decline of the animal in Europe is largely due to intensive hunting.

The lynx became a protected species in Sweden in the 1920s. The very weak population got the chance to recover. Numbers grew and hunting was reintroduced in 1943. Until the 1970s, people thought that the future of the lynx looked bright in Sweden, but then there were signs that their numbers were falling. Excessive hunting was the likely reason. The species had also been hit hard by scabies. Lynx therefore became protected again in Sweden in 1991. This proved successful, and the country’s lynx population slowly started to grow.

Lynx need large untouched forests if they are to thrive. Such habitats are increasingly disappearing. We build roads for forestry vehicles and use noisy machinery, which disturbs the shy lynx. Illegal hunting using snowmobiles also takes place.

The species is classified as “vulnerable” (VU) on the Red List of the Swedish Species Information Centre. Internationally, on the global Red List, they are in the “near threatened” (NT) category. The lynx is also one of the species in the EU’s Habitats Directive.

Populations around the world

The lynx around the world

In the past lynx were found throughout Europe. Their numbers have fallen dramatically in Europe since the 19th century. They now only remain in Scandinavia, the Alps and Eastern Europe. Lynx are also found in northern Asia. Spain and Portugal are home to a very rare close relative, the Iberian lynx, and two other closely related species live in North America.