The lynx, the jewel of the Šumava wilderness and Europe's largest feline beast, has always competed with humans for limited resources. Its high demands on land area and protein-rich diet have always led to conflict with humans. The result was its complete extinction in some areas, including the Šumava and the Bavarian Forest. However, the public's attitude towards predators living in the wild has changed significantly with the advent of the environmental movement in the 20th century, and efforts to return wild beasts as an integral part of the fauna in our territory and throughout Europe are proof of this. However, despite the lynx's protected status, man-made death, mostly due to poaching, remains the greatest threat to the beast.
Due to the fact that the 1st zone of the Šumava National Park, which is its main refuge, does not reach the required size for the stability of its population, the lynx often moves in areas with human settlement. As the availability of prey is greatest in these areas, it must constantly balance on the thin line between successful hunting and the risk of collision with humans.
An international team of scientists in cooperation with expert Luďek Bufka from the Faculty of Forestry and Wood Sciences has been collecting data on the occurrence and movement of lynxes living in this area for a long time using GPS transmitters. In a study published last year, they decided to take a closer look at the data to see how the lynx chooses its shelter based on the season, altitude, distance from hiking trails and human settlements, prey occurrence and many other variables. Using the methods of statistical analysis, they looked for new findings that would confirm or refute their assumptions. And what did they end up with in the end?
Where a lynx is currently staying largely determines whether it is day or night. During the day he needs enough shelter and therefore chooses inaccessible areas with dense undergrowth, he avoids open space. He also prefers terrain on a slope, often in places near rocky formations, which are a suitable refuge for daily rest and provide a good view for watching the movement of prey. At night, on the other hand, it stays close to clearings, meadows and glades, where hoofed game graze. The importance of dense vegetation is, of course, growing in the vicinity of human settlements, which are usually at least one kilometre away. Lynx also stays away from hiking trails; however, it uses them extensively at night to move faster from place to place.
The season is an equally important factor in its movement. In winter, it moves more in lower-lying areas, where, due to extreme temperature conditions and high snow cover, hoofed game, its main source of food, migrate from higher altitudes. In summer, it most often looks for areas such as meadows and pastures, young stands and calamity areas. This type of vegetation provides it with enough opportunities for shelter and good opportunities for hunting.
In general, the three strongest factors that influence the choice of lynx habitat are altitude, terrain unavailability, and stand density. However, it should be noted that there are a number of other conditions affecting the occurrence of the lynx, and this area thus offers many opportunities for further research. Thanks to the newly acquired knowledge, we better understand the habits and behaviour of this feline, we can better estimate the carrying capacity of the environment given the size of its population and thus improve our efforts to protect it.
Prepared by Lukáš Bekr