Individual study: Survival, movements and population development of lynx Lynx lynx reintroduced to the Vosges massif, Lorraine, France
Vandel J., Stahl P., Herrenschmidt V. & Marboutin E. (2006) Reintroduction of the lynx into the Vosges mountain massif: from animal survival and movements to population development. Biological Conservation, 131, 370-385
Over the last centuries the lynx Lynx lynx has been eradicated in most countries in the southern European part of its range. This study documents the reintroduction of lynx into the Vosges massif of northeast France, where last evidence for lynx presence was in the early 17th century. From 1983 onwards several releases took place and animal survival and movements were followed by radio-tracking.
Releases: Nine adult female and 12 adult male lynx were released in the Vosges massif between 1983 and 1993. These lynx came from the Carpathian Mountains and were apparently kept in captivity with minimum human contact before transfer to France. However, two released animals had to be recaptured after release as they had become human-friendly. All lynx were vaccinated against rabies, infectious feline gastroenteritis and coryza, prior to release.
Four reintroduction sites (14-61 km apart) were used within the southern Vosges massif. Before 1987, the lynx were directly transported to the Vosges and kept in pre-release cages (from 4-45 days) in the forest at the release sites. From 1987 on, upon arrival in France, the animals were first kept at a zoo in cages isolated from the public, where held for 6-156 days. The longest captivity periods were due to administrative problems regarding releases. From the zoo they were transported to the reintroduction sites and released upon arrival.
Radio-tracking: All animals were fitted with a radio collar, except one male that escaped from the pre-release cage prior to collar fitting. In the early 1980s transmitters were rather unreliable and some signal losses could have been due to technical failures. From 1990 on, their reliability greatly improved. Unfortunately telemetry data recorded over 43 months for eight lynx were lost during a fire; for some only their release date and date of the last radio contact are known. The available radio-tracking data relates to 18 individuals located 1-501 times over 1-847 days.
As well as by radio-tracking, data was collected (mostly opportunistically) on lynx presence by: i) visual observations of lynx, including corpses; ii) indications of presence (e.g. tracks, prey remains, scats and hair); and iii) recording attacks on domestic animals (i.e. sheep and goats).
Breeding evidence: Visual observations (alive or dead young), and tracks of individuals roaming together (outside the mating period), were taken as evidence of breeding.
Spatial analysis: Spatial analysis of the telemetry data was undertaken to estimated occupied range and population status.
Survival: A total of 21 lynx were released between 1983 and 1993. One female and two males were killed illegally: respectively, 204, 254 and 134 days after release; distance between place of death and release site 4, 35 and 10 km. Another female died of malnutrition 31 days after release; post-mortem examination revealed a fracture of the radius and cubitus in the process of healing. The remains of a female (133 days after release) and a male (1,024 days after release) were found, but the exact date and cause of death are unknown.
The illegal killing of another one female and two other males was suspected because their transmitter suddenly stopped emitting 107, 8 and 21 days after their release, without any preliminary sign of breakdown; no other evidence of their presence was detected afterwards.
One female and one male had to be recaptured after only 7-8 days after release (both were too habituated to people and were unsuccessful at capturing prey) and were subsequently placed in a zoo.
Therefore, only a maximum of four females and six males (plus presumably, the one surviving 1,024 days) where considered to have survived long enough to have contributed to the founder population.
Range expansion and population development: After release, the lynx roamed from 5.4 to 36.9 km around the release site; within the first three months, the average prospected area was 236 km² (84–566 km²). Their area of distribution was 1,872 km² in 1988–1990 increasing to 3,159 km² in 2000–2002. In 1987, the first cases of reproduction were recorded. The authors consider that the relatively small area of the permanent population core (1,962 km²) and the long time animals needed to settle, could be due to a number of factors including the small number of founders, and that the small number of releases were spread over a long time period (10 years).
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