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First images of lynx hoarding warn of new threats to this species

The dead deer lay for hours in Montes de Toledo. A large male Iberian lynx approaches a downed animal. He does not look for rabbits, he approaches the meat, smells it and finally eats it.

Rabbit hunters, the most endangered cats, use deer, wild boar, roe deer, mouflon or deer carcasses. In fact, lynxes are more protective than previously thought. And it opens up a new reality for these endangered species. “We honestly didn’t expect this,” says Jorge Tobachas, a researcher at the University of Córdoba and the Institute of Hunting Resources.

The work that Tobias and other scientists designed in the Toledo massif focused more on black-whiskered vultures — another highly endangered species — “a program designed to see how hunting has affected these birds,” the biologist says.

But what they discovered and observed – as each piece was watched by a camera – is that the Iberian lynx, a super-specialist predator, is regularly bitten. An additional source of food, a means of coping with times of scarcity, but at the same time an open door to new dangers, such as death from poisoning.

“A male lynx appeared on one piece and we thought it was strange. But the case continued, and in places where there are a lot of rabbits, where they can be hunted,” says the researcher. “It was assumed until now that it was, but this confirms it.

17 lynxes live in the territory protected by Tobaja and his companions. Wild cattle breeding farm and hunting ground. It is one of the extensions chosen for the reintroduction of the species in Castilla-La Mancha and the first home of the traveling lynx Kentaro, who died in 2016 after being hit by a car after wandering more than 2,400 km around the peninsula.

Almost the entire population of cats in this area ate carrion. 70% had consumed it at least once, “especially by older men,” the study explains. In fact, individuals not only ate but also claimed the finds as their own: they named the animals, hid the remains, and roamed around in them.

“Our observations are the first lynx to actively scavenge ungulates and confirm the potential risks associated.” Eating this meat exposes them to possible diseases carried by these animals or “may contribute to intentional poisoning in cases where there is human-wildlife conflict.”

Conflicts usually occur when lynx interfere with economic activities: commercial hunting or livestock. This same study explains: “As the lynx population expands, so do the problems in cabins, particularly due to damage to sheep and chickens.”

The lynx’s rescue appears to have at least partially rehabilitated the pest label that pushed it to the brink of extinction. In 2002, the population did not reach 100 individuals. Nearly 20 years later, in 2021, the census recorded 1,365 lynx as adults, juveniles and cubs, according to the last count. “Despite the fact that the most critical situation has been overcome, it is still officially considered endangered,” the Ministry of Ecological Transition explains.

The danger of the poison “should not be a minor concern because poisoning is still a widespread practice that threatens species,” these scientists say. According to SEO-Birdlife and WWF between 1992 and 2013 more than 8,000 episodes of poisoning were recorded with more than 18,000 dead animals, but both organizations calculate that in reality more than 185,000 animals fell in Spain.

If the lynx attacks, it is enough to poison the cow and wait for its arrival to escape their presence. It would not be the first time that a bred and reintroduced specimen has been found to ultimately undermine the multi-million dollar investment of public money used to prevent Lynx pardinus from disappearing.

In addition, there is also a risk that lynxes may ingest lead in their meat in areas where there is hunting activity, “although this would require more constant consumption,” says biologist Tobias.

These observations changed the fixed image that existed about one of the most iconic species of Iberian biodiversity, “Our discovery slightly upset the lynx paradigm. He is still a rabbit specialist, but uses this other resource. Only an animal does not know how to eat a rabbit, it can do other things,” concludes Tobajas.

But at the same time, the discovery calls for exploring the troubling implications it has for heritage preservation, be it exposure to pathogens, lead, or poison. “It opens other windows and can also have negative interactions.”

Source: El Diario





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