If the Star Wars franchise featured alien wildcats, a member of the Lynx family might be the inspiration. The medium-size wildcats — bobcat, Canadian lynx, Eurasian lynx and Iberian lynx — stand out for their tufted ears, bobtails, freakishly long hind legs and tawny-to-spotted coats. They range over North America, from desert to snowy mountains and through Europe and Asia.
Bobcats (Lynx rufus) are perhaps most familiar to us. They make their homes in a wide variety of habitats — swamps, forests and deserts — and settle in urban areas with humans as their next-door neighbors. Despite their smaller size and distinctive appearance, which includes a black-tipped tail, ears outlined in black with a large white spot and black stripes on legs, tail and the ruff around the face, they’re often mistaken for mountain lion cubs or even adult mountain lions.
The Canadian lynx (L. canadensis) favors dense forests and, despite his name, lives as far south as Utah. Snowshoe hares, red squirrels, rodents and birds make up his diet. Canadian lynx who live in snowy climes have large, padded paws that carry them easily across the snow.
Largest of the four species is the Eurasian lynx (L. lynx), weighing in at 29 to 64 pounds. He wears a range of looks, as his coat may have spots of varying sizes and shapes or no spots at all. The Eurasian lynx is found in Russia, Scandinavia, China and central Asia and parts of eastern and western Europe.
Last and most at risk is the Iberian lynx (L. pardinus), which has only two small populations in southern Spain and is listed as endangered by the IUCN. The good news is that Iberian lynx are being reintroduced into other areas of Spain as well as in Portugal. They are fully protected in both countries.
Thumbnail: Photography ©ylq | Shutterstock.
Kim Campbell Thornton has been writing about cats and dogs for 32 years. She is the award-winning author of more than two dozen books and hundreds of articles on pet care, health and behavior.
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