Coauthor Irina Rotenko
In mountain rocky regions it is well-known that Eurasian lynxes use cavity-shelters that situated under or between rocks, whereas in non-rocky forested regions such a behaviour of the species is not so evident. Recently we found that lynxes use cavity-shelters in such habitats a lot, too. We investigated this question on lynx behaviour in Naliboki Forest (central-western Belarus) by means of camera-trapping, snowtracking and detailed inspection of lynx habitats with checking for lynx hair.
Under cavity-shelters we define not a long one like a burrow or tunnel. In forested areas in Belarus there are mainly three types of such cavity-shelters for lynxes:
(1) Root plate that was lifted by the tree inclined by wind. Such a lifted root plate can create like closed overhang with own mild microclimate inside, which is drier and snowless, cooler in the warm season, but warmer in the cold season.
(2) Hollow in big semi-rotten deciduous tree.
(3) Former cavity-den of wolves that was dug in something relevant.
We gradually collected materials on the above interesting question of the Eurasian lynx behaviour and were not going to summarise something on the topic currently. But the recent interesting documentation pushed us to do this post sooner.
Below you see root plate overhang, which was regularly used for sheltering from rainy weather by mother lynx with two kittens. When we found this shelter in the early October 2020 there were a lot of fresh footprints of lynx kittens and several visible sleeping couches of lynxes (i.e. with lynx hair) inside. There were many evidence (hair on roots, trampled spots, destroyed forest floor and moss on the inclined trees, scratch-marks), which suggested that the lynx family used the cavity-shelter regularly during the warm season. We put camera-trap nearby, but the family did not come back there still, perhaps, because of they actually relocated for main living about 3-5 km away. Nevertheless, the adult male lynx that was regularly registered close to the lynx family continued visiting the overhang for shorter or longer stay inside and in the close proximity. It visited the overhang cavity-shelter in 3-9 days since the late October.
On the photos below you see the root plate overhang itself and its using by the adult male lynx. It smelled and marked by urine the entrance, entered inside and stayed therein.
Here it is worthwhile to add that in the late summer of 2020 we discovered two similar but smaller space cavity-shelters under root-plate overhangs, which were used by two different lynx mothers to situate kittens of early days, i.e. such cavities served them as dens .
Below you see cavity-shelters of lynxes in hollows of big semi-rotten deciduous trees.
The hollows that you see below were registered (by presence of lynx hair mainly) as cavity-shelters used by lynxes. The approximate frequency of their usage by lynxes was from one visit per several months to several visits per a month. In one of them with author at the entrance there were kittens. So, the cavity-shelter was used as a den.
The cavity-shelters, which you see below, were used by breeding wolves for denning. Afterwards they were used by lynxes for sheltering. The approximate frequency of their usage by lynxes was from one to 20 times per year.
By summarising our registrations of using of cavity-shelters by lynxes, we would like to say that mainly lynxes used them no often, but anyway they used them in particular to hide from wet weather with long raining or wet snow cover. Concerning sheltering from mosquitos and other blood-sucking insects, lynxes sheltered on trees (especially inclined ones) mainly. Nevertheless, sometimes lynxes escape from blood-sucking insects in such a cavity-shelter, too.