The long-awaited return of the lynx
West Pomerania is covered with a thick grid of roads, some of which never cease to emit noise. The terrain is varied but mostly sandy. The forests that cover 35,7% of its territory are mostly meager pine forests.
Who would dare to introduce Eurasian lynx into such an environment? Should everything we knew about this species be considered spurious? It was thought that it prefers terrain with dense under-growth, lots of deadwood and is afraid of all roads, even forest ones. But this secretive feline has not yet let itself be truly known.
The Mirosławiec Forest Inspectorate has taken up the gauntlet thrown by the West Pomeranian Nature Society, which by the way takes care of one of only six free-living herds of European bison in Poland.
We decided that, since we have bison, we might as well have lynxes – jokes Paweł Olszacki, Mirosławiec Forest Manager. Lynxes are a valuable and intriguing species, and should they acclima-tize to our conditions and start breeding, they will be considered a success on a world scale.
So far, the attempts to re-introduce lynx in Europe usually ended in failure. Will the West Pomeranian project end in success, only time will tell.
The two brothers
The tenth of May 2019 is the day in which for the first time in 200 years lynxes appeared in Mirosławiec forests. Two two-year males were brought from a German Zoo – Bayerwald Tierpark. They were first put in a special enclosure, where they were fed natural food, inter alia, deer. Lynx stay there for a maximum of a year to get accustomed to their surroundings, then they move out.
Since 2019 successive lynxes are being released. Only this year they were 36 (out of which 16 in Mirosławiec forest district), and a dozen more are in the plans. These numbers are amazing since ac-cording to Polish Central Statistical Office in 2018 in Poland there were only 427 lynxes, and some sources state that in reality, it's only half that number. These animals migrate and occupy enormous territories. In Poland, it's around 250 km2, and male territories are much larger than those of females. Tomcats fight tooth and nail to defend their territory from competitors and sometimes it is a fight to the death.
Contrary to what we knew so far
The data thus acquired is rather surprising. It turns out the lynx is not as choosy and capricious as we thought. As shown by the example of a male called Pako, even the highway is not an insurmountable barrier. He traveled for a year, from the Ińsk lake district, around Gdańsk, Bydgoszcz, and Poznań until he arrived in Germany. He even swam across the river Warta! Other lynxes, though their travels are not as spectacular, also prove that roads are not insurmountable barriers. It is also a myth that lynxes can't swim. Probably they will not become passionate swimmers, but when forced, by the need to travel or procreate, they can get their feet wet.
In nature, lynxes pair up for very short periods, and the female raises her young alone. All lynxes in the project are subject to genetic testing, to check the level of kinship and avoid the risk of inbreeding. We can also be sure it is not of the Carpathian variety, which prevails in the mountain regions of Southern Poland.
Both the forest inspector and Michał Dubiał, Nature Conservation specialist in Mirosławiec Forestry, are full of optimism. Dubiał says, that the creation of a breeding subpopulation of lynx in Poland seems a real possibility. West Pomeranian Nature Society reports many cubs that "their" female lynxes gave birth to in the wild. The latest are three cubs of the female called Nelly. The young ones are not given telemetric collars, but we hope their mother will raise them well, and that we will have in our forests the first generation of lynxes fully raised in the wild.
Reintroducing the lynx in Poland
Every lynx has its character, some would even say temper. Getting to know the lynxes and their be-havior is an added incentive for the people working on the project. The "training" consists of getting the lynxes accustomed to eating wild game, and to … lose their trust in humans. Obviously, the ani-mals transported from zoos in Germany or Austria are not afraid of people. For their reintroduction in the natural environment to be a success, they need to be wild, secretive and avoid humans.
Autor: Paulina Król, Lasy Państwowe