Hunting success is one of the key features to determine the fitness of beasts and it depends on several factors, including the quality of their hunting grounds. Therefore, a team of scientists from the Faculty of Forestry and Wood Science at the CULS in Prague and the Šumava National Park monitored for 10 years in which localities lynx hunt and whether there are any elements that increase their chances of catching prey – in this case red deer and roe deer. Elements that can affect hunting are, for example, afforestation density, terrain irregularities, fallen trunks, dense shrubs, rocks, etc.
The research, which was part of the Czech-Bavarian project "Research on the ecology of lynx and roe deer in the mountain ecosystem", took place in the Šumava and Bavarian Forest National Parks and the surrounding area with a total area of 4 300 km2. Researchers recorded all habitat conditions of localities where dead deer or roe deer were found, and the cause of their death was the catch of lynx. The positions of the dead animals were obtained thanks to the telemetric collars worn by the lynx or its prey.
All data obtained were divided separately for summer and winter. The distribution of roe deer and red deer is different in summer and winter, as is the number and availability of prey for the season.
Interpretation of the data shows that the lynx most often hunts in areas with a diverse composition of vegetation, which allows it to monitor the movement of prey and at the same time provides it with sufficient cover. Such areas can be considered various ecotones *, but also open spaces with shrubs or tall grass, tall forests with fallen trunks, natural seeding vegetation, etc.
Although much has been done to understand the living conditions of a particular species, this is only the first in-depth study of the lynx. Thanks to the resulting information, it would be possible to propose a change in forestry and agriculture to preserve the diverse composition of the forest and forest cover that this largest and most endangered European feline beast needs for hunting. However, as usual, not all research has been put into practice – whether for economic, legislative or other reasons. And that is a pity, because it would certainly positively affect the chances of survival of many animal or plant species.
* Ecotone = a marginal community emerging at the boundaries of two different communities – such as the edge of a forest and the beginning of a meadow.
Elisa Belotti is a doctoral student at the Czech University of Life Sciences, graduated with a bachelor's and master's degree in animal ecology and nature conservation at the Universita degli Studi di Parma in Italy, and now collaborates with the Šumava National Park Administration on the international project.
Prepared by: Kateřina Swólová