Institute for Fish and Wildlife Health


The management of lynx orphans in Switzerland

Although the number of Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx) is slightly increasing in Switzerland, the overall situation remains concerning. The most frequent causes of death are due to human activities, in particular road collisions and poaching. Juvenile animals are particularly exposed and the mortality rate is relatively high. They may, among others, become orphans for various reasons: they may lose their mother (trauma, poaching, disease), they may fail to follow her due to injury or illness, or they may have been abandoned due to suboptimal health condition.

The FIWI has conducted a retrospective study on the management of orphaned lynx in Switzerland, from the reintroduction of the species in the 1970s to 2019. The different management methods used over the years were described and evaluated, and recommendations for the future were tentatively formulated.

In the FIWI and KORA ( databases, 120 individuals (75 found alive and 45 found dead) could be identified as "orphaned", based on criteria including age (juvenile depending on their mother), apparent absence of mother and emaciation (the latter was a particularly important criterion for individuals found dead). Management has evolved over the years, according to the different guidelines of the Federal Office for the Environment and their different "lynx concepts". Four management methods have been tested: culling (32 lynx), placement in zoological collections (8), rehabilitation and release in nature (8) and feeding in the wild (1).