The Balkan lynx (Lynx lynx balcanicus) belongs to the cat family (Felidae). There are four species of cats belonging to the genus Lynx: Iberian lynx, Eurasian lynx, Canadian lynx and bobcat. The Eurasian lynx has the widest distribution extending from Western Europe through Russia and into Central Asia. The Balkan lynx is one of the subspecies of the Eurasian lynx that is widespread on the Balkan Peninsula.
Lynxes are medium-sized predators with a body length of 80 to 120 centimeters and a shoulder height of 50 to 70 centimeters. They can reach a weight of 15 to 25 kilograms. The fur is silky with a yellowish-brown color, often speckled with black dots. Some individuals do not have these typical patterns, the dots may be small, and sometimes they may not be there at all. Thanks to this kind of fur, it camouflages itself well, i.e. hides itself in the environment where it lives and is thus difficult to notice. It has a typical short tail, which is black at the tip, making it easily distinguishable from other cats. The long tufts of hair on the tips of the ears are a particular characteristic of the lynx. These strands can be up to 5 centimeters long, and the lynx’s characteristic whiskers, which work as a sound amplifier, are also impressive.
The lynx is one of the most mysterious animals with a temperamental character. It has an excellent sense of smell, excellent hearing and sharp eyesight, it can spot prey at a distance of 75 meters. It is a typical nocturnal animal, mostly active at dawn and dusk. During the day it usually rests and sleeps hidden in thick bushes and other safe shelters. Skillfully uses trees and high rocks as places to hide and observe prey. Lynxes live a mostly independent life, except during the period of mating and rearing cubs. Lynx occupy territories marked by special secretions of the glands, urine or feces. Males have larger territories to have access to one or two females.
The formation of the offspring begins in February/March (April), and the individuals are attracted to each other with the help of the smell from the secretions. After two months, usually towards the end of May, 2-3 blind and helpless cubs are born. After 6 weeks, the young are old enough to eat solid food and can follow their mother out of the den. After 6 months they stop sucking, and after 10 months they are completely independent and leave the den and the mother. At 2-3 years of age, they become sexually mature. The lynx has no natural enemies, and its lifespan ranges from 12 to 14 years (more than 20 years in captivity). In its diet, it mostly prefers deer and chamois, but also rabbits, rats and wild birds, and eats 1-2 kilograms of meat per day. It hunts from an ambush, and the sound it makes is very quiet and often inaudible, so its presence can easily go unnoticed. It can jump up to 3 meters in distance or height.
About 20-44 individuals of the Balkan lynx are widespread and live in the mountainous regions of Macedonia and Albania. Some of the first data show that towards the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, the Balkan lynx was widespread in all the forested areas of the mountains of the Balkans, but disappeared from the lowlands. His territory stretched over the surface of ten Balkan states, from Slovenia in the north, to the Greek mountains in the south.
With the rapid growth of the population, as well as with the massive destruction of forests, the distribution of the Balkan lynx during the 19th century until the beginning of the 20th century decreased significantly. The species has been exterminated from most of the territories of the former Yugoslav republics and is becoming concentrated in the mountain ranges that today form the border region of Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Greece.
In the sixties of the last century, the Balkan lynx completely disappeared from Slovenia, Croatia and Bulgaria. It remains inhabited only in the western parts of Macedonia, in the east of Albania, in the south of Greece and small parts of today’s Kosovo and Montenegro.
About 30 years ago, the Balkan lynx concentrated only on the Sharplanina massif and the mountainous border region between Albania and Macedonia. The population is significantly reduced in the border region of Macedonia and Greece and the few lynxes remain only in parts of the mountainous areas of Nidze and Baba.
For the last ten years, the Balkan lynx has been a critically endangered species, of which only between 35 and 45 individuals are believed to remain. Evidence of the existence of the Balkan lynx has been registered in and around Mavrovo National Park, where the largest population is located, Galichica National Park, the northeastern and central part of Albania, and Prokletie National Park, which is shared by Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro. In Galichica National Park, the lynx was not observed for a longer period of time of about 20 years, but fortunately in 2021, one individual was recorded on set photo traps, which confirmed the presence of this species, which is also a symbol of NP Galichica. Domestic and international experts realize that help is needed to save this animal species, so in 2001 the first special report on the status of the Balkan lynx was published.
The regional program for the recovery of the Balkan lynx implemented by the Macedonian Ecological Society began in 2006 and continues until today.
On the red list of endangered species (IUCN), this animal has the status of a critically endangered species. In addition to poaching and the drastic reduction of its food, roe deer, illegal logging and the influx of stray dogs in rural parts of the country, are among the main threats to the survival of the Balkan lynx.
The lynx has been protected by law in Macedonia since 1949. The Hunting Law (Official Gazette of the Republic of Moldova 20/96) defines the lynx as a game and categorizes it as a protected game (Article 12), and its hunting is permanently prohibited (Article 15). Another law, very important for the protection of wild animals, is the Law on the Protection of Nature, which was implemented in June 2005. The lynx is also protected by several international conventions, which were ratified by R. Macedonia: Bern Convention, CITES, EU Habitats & Species Directive.