People & Lynx
An encounter of the rare kind
With the return of the lynx to the Thuringian Forest, many people are asking: Will I come across a lynx on my next walk in the forest? The short answer to this is no. Although lynx are certainly present in our man-made landscapes and use human infrastructure such as forest paths, they are extremely secretive animals and usually avoid humans.
As true masters of camouflage, they are mainly on the move at dusk or at night and rely on their well-developed senses. Experiments have shown that lynx can still hear the sound of a whistle from 4.5 kilometers, whereas dogs can only do so up to a distance of 2.8 kilometers. In addition, lynx eyes have a very high visual acuity, so they can still recognize a mouse at a distance of 75 meters. So it is not without reason that people talk about having ears like a lynx or being able to see like a lynx. It is, therefore, easy for them to perceive hikers from a great distance and to avoid them. So it is more like winning the lottery if you meet a lynx in the wild.
It is much more likely that the lynx will see you, even if you don’t see it. Experts, by the way, find it similarly difficult to track the cats.
Encounter without danger
Even though acceptance of the species is generally high, some people are concerned about the return of the lynx to our forests. The reason for this is usually a lack of background information. It is important to take fears seriously and to inform people about the behavior of the returning forest dwellers.
Lynxes do not pose a danger to humans. The animals live very secretively and usually avoid human contact on their own. Since the lynxes‘ return to Germany, there has not been a single incident in which a human has been injured by a free-roaming lynx. However, if an encounter with a lynx does occur, it is good to know how to behave. Lynxes are not fearful animals, which is why they are not likely to flee immediately if they meet humans. They rely on their effective camouflage, then they wait and watch. If you do encounter a lynx, keep calm. Very few people are lucky enough to see a lynx in the wild, so enjoy the moment. Do not run away and avoid frantic movements. Respect the animal and do not approach it further so it does not feel harassed and wants to defend itself. Either the lynx will move on all by itself, or you can slowly retreat yourself.
Irrespective of the lynx, dogs must always be kept on a leash in the forest, except for hunting, according to the Thuringian Forest Act. This law is as much for the protection of the animal inhabitants of the forest as it is for the dogs themselves.
If you have managed to take a photo or video of a lynx, please report it to the Kompetenzzentrum Wolf/Biber/Luchs at the Thuringian Ministry of the Environment.
How can people help the lynx?
The greatest danger to the lynx comes from humans. Besides illegal hunting of the animals, traffic accidents are the leading cause of death. Germany is very fragmented. This means there is little connected habitat due to dense settlements and infrastructure. Thus, lynxes have to cross dangerous roads frequently to disperse and open up new territories.
Even with small behavioral changes, you can help the lynx and other wildlife. You can implement some of them directly during your next forest walk. Keep calm and stay on the paths. Respect the forest as a habitat, not only for lynx but also for all other animals. Put your dog on a leash so as not to disturb lynxes and other wildlife, and get out of the way of the animal in case of an encounter. You can also share your knowledge and experience with others. This will make the lynx a topic of conversation and help to ease the worries or fears of others.
In addition, there are also ways to counteract the fragmentation of Germany. Green bridges or underpasses as well as green corridors can help to connect habitats and reduce the risk of traffic accidents. Green bridges are vegetated road crossings specially designed for wildlife. They can be used to facilitate and improve contact between different lynx populations and, thus, genetic exchange. Many other animal species that suffer from the fragmentation of the landscape, such as the red deer, also benefit from the connection of isolated habitats.