The Baikal region remains a habitat for a big Siberian cat with cute tufts on pointed triangular ears. This is Eurasian or Siberian lynx, the largest of all known species of this animal.
The length of the animal’s body is from 80 to 130 cm, it is heavily built, its body is short, covered with dense thick silky fur that is especially beautiful in winter. The color of the fur is either red, with a brown tinge, or dark smoky, the spots are most noticeable in summer.
Lynx is a predator with very wide powerful paws endowed with sharp claws shaped as curved hooks. Their length can reach 10 cm. Experts say that the claws of forest cats, in general, resemble blades of perfectly sharpened knives. Therefore, one punch of the paw is enough to rip the belly of a hunting dog open. Lynx’s paws have black pads that are overgrown with thick short bristles during the cold season. All in all, the shape of the lynx’s sole has a unique structure, and this enables the animal to step on snow more easily. The structure of the lynx’s body makes the animal a perfect jumper: it can leap up to 3.5 meters long (some data say that the distance may be up to 5.5 meters), and up to 2 meters high. Strong vision and fantastic hearing are the most important characteristics of this animal. Some believe that a lynx can even hear a hare nibbling grass or tree bark at a distance of sixty meters.
The weight of males is about 16-30 kg, but hunters claim that there are some very large individuals - about 40 kg. Females naturally weigh less.
A lifespan of a lynx makes up an average of 12–15 years.
A distinctive feature of a lynx is a short, as if docked, tail, its length making up no more than one third of the entire animal’s body. A Tungus folk fairy tale explains why the tail is so compact.
A fox sat on the bank, a lynx walked towards it. They greeted each other, and the lynx began to admire the beautiful fox’s skin, and ask what should be done for obtaining the same kind of fur. And the fox said:
- It’s nothing special. You can get this too, lynx.
- What do you mean? Please, teach me
- I will teach, I will, - the fox answered and laughed to itself. - You see that ice field. Run there and lie down. If you lie down there all day and all night, you will become a beauty.
The lynx was very glad. She lay on the ice field. It was lying, freezing, asking whether it was the time to get up. And the fox kept saying:
- Stay on the ice! Be patient, be patient!
The lynx could not resist. It jumped to its feet. She wanted to run, but could not tear itself away from the ice. The tail froze into the ice. The lynx rushed away with all her might. Thus, it tore its tail off. And it ran away, leaving its tail in the ice. Since then, all lynxes are tailless.
Like any other predators, the lynxes live in the places where there is enough food. If there is a lot of prey, the animal leads a settled way of life, but in case of a shortage of food, the forest cat will search for another, more comfortable zone.
The diet of a lynx is pretty much diverse, but of course, it is based on meat. Lynxes hunt hares (locals call such lynxes “hare-eaters”), small rodents (mouse hares, marmots, Siberian marmots), but they may be interested in larger animals. These include young moose, wild boars, Siberian stags. The big cat also eats medium-sized animals, the majority of which are presented by roe deer and musk deer.
Lynxes also hunt birds - black grouse, capercaillies, hazel grouse. Sometimes they even have to fish.
In winter, in case of shortage of food, the lynx can destroy hunters’ traps, eating squirrels, Siberian striped weasels and ermines that were caught in these traps. Another way of lynxes’ behavior is more dangerous: when hunger leads the predators to the places of habitat of people, there lynxes have no other way than to attack domestic animals.
In summer the lynx can eat both bird eggs and chicks taken by the animal from the nests destroyed by it.
Well-informed people the eating behavior of lynxes “aristocratic”. The fact is that the predator prefers to consume the meat hunted by it independently, the meat should still be fresh and warm. Of course, in case urgent need, the lynx can also eat carrion, but the animal does so against its will, with disgust.
Lynx is a very professional and dexterous hunter. When evaluating her skills, experts emphasize that this animal is very intelligent, capable of accurate calculation, measured actions; it is characterized by incredible patience and quick wit. Few inhabitants of the Baikal forests have such strengths.
During the day, the cat sleeps and gains strength in its lair, and goes hunting when the dusk sets in. The lynx prefers night time, although young predators of this species can also hunt during the day. The usual length of a night route can amount up to 10 km, and if lynx finds no game, it will enhance its distance of search.
Heart-breaking hunting tales about the rapid jumps of lynxes from the trees aimed at catching their prey, including people, do not have any real foundation. If a lynx climbs a tree, it does not climb high, besides, this position is needed by the animal mainly to observe game animals. Lynxes hunt at low heights. Just like all cats, the lynx is an ambush hunter.
The favorite hunting technique of the lynx is sneaking up to its prey. After scrupulous tracking, the lynx cautiously approaches the prey, stops as close as possible, and prepares for a swift rush: it covers the distance to its target in a few jumps. The patient cat can sit in ambush for a very long time, but if a swift rush is not successful, the lynx chases the prey it missed no further than for a distance of 100 meters.
The lynx is also able to mask in a perfect way, it advances silently and merges with the surrounding background. Besides, she can hide her tracks, trying to walk on the spots that are not covered with continuous snow blanket. It is believed that lynxes are the second most cautious animals after wolves. However, as a rule, the big cat hunts alone, although there can be exceptions: mother lynx and her youngsters can chase game in a group, for example, in the places where the hares live.
Unfortunately, the count of the beautiful animal that was once widespread in the Baikal region is decreasing now due to various reasons, including environmental problems.
International Cat Day is celebrated on August 8. Of course, this holiday is dedicated to the cute domestic animals, but the snow leopard, also known as “ounce”, is a cat as well, although a very large one.
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