Balkan lynx

Lynx lynx balcanicus


Балкански рис


Rrëqebulli i Ballkanit

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Assessment info
Habitat and Ecology
Use and Trade
Conservation Actions


Scientific name

Lynx lynx balcanicus


Buresh, 1941



Assessment info

IUCN Red List Category and Criteria

VU, D1 и B1ab(iii)

Date assessed

December 2020


Aleksandar Stojanov

Dime Melovski

Aleksandar Pavlov


Aleksandër Trajçe


Vasko Avukatov


Marteen P.G. Hofman


According to the IUCN Red List Criteria, the Balkan lynx is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) under criterion D as the number of mature individuals is estimated to be less than 50. The total size of the population is estimated to be 32 mature individuals. The continuous presence of the Balkan lynx is so far only confirmed for Macedonia and Albania in two separate, but relatively close locations, therefore the population is considered to consist of two sub-populations. Although the distribution range of the taxon is divided into two nuclei, the Macedonian sub-population seems to be connected. During 1990-1995 as well as 1996-2001 Pan-European assessments based on experts from the regional countries indicated a decrease for both population size and distribution range. The latest assessments conducted by the Balkan Lynx Recovery Programme in North Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro have revealed a stabilization in population size and area of occupancy since about 2008. The core area with known reproduction is Mavrovo National Park and its vicinity in North Macedonia, but recent indications revealed a possible reproduction in Dobra Voda and Jablanica Mountain, at the border with Albania.


Current population trend



The Balkan lynx is the smallest and most threatened native Eurasian lynx subpopulation. It experienced a severe bottleneck in 1935-1940 with an estimated number of only 15-20 individuals (Mirić 1981). After World War II the population started to recover, especially in Kosovo and Macedonia. In the 1960-70s, it also reappeared in Montenegro. In 1974 the population was estimated at 280 lynx (Mirić 1981). Based on expert opinion from the range countries, the population was estimated between 80 and 105 individuals in 2000 (von Arx et al. 2004). The last three intensive camera-trapping surveys in its core area (Macedonia’s Mavrovo National Park) in 2013, 2015 and 2018 (study area of approx. 400 km2) revealed a minimum number of seven to nine independent individuals, and a population density ranging 1.57 to 2.02 individuals per 100 km2 (Stojanov, 2020). The population size was calculated taking into account the surface of the estimated distribution range or area of occupancy (3507 km2) multiplied by the mean population density and divided by 100 (population density is for independent individuals per 100 km2 from camera trapping, corrected for an estimated 25% subadult lynx). The results are 32 mature individuals.

Habitat and Ecology



Habitat and Ecology

In North Macedonia, the Balkan lynx is mainly spread in the western parts, along the Albanian border. It’s distribution range spreads from Shar Mt. in the north-west all the way to Galichica NP in the south-west. Main habitats are: deciduous (beech, oak, hornbeam, hop-hornbeam), evergreen (fir and pine) and mixed forests (fir-beech), but also fragmented forests and bush habitats. It uses rocky and sunny sites for day beds. In the summer period, it occasionally visits high-mountain pastures. Shrub lands and cultivated areas (rural fields and mountain meadows) are visited primarily for hunting. Documented prey in Balkan lynx diet includes roe deer (70%), brown hare (17.5%), chamois (7.3%), marten and fox (5.2%) (Melovski et al., 2020). Alternative prey ranges from wild boar to different rodents and even bats (Ivanov et al., 2018).

Use and trade

Use and trade

Despite the legal status of protection, stuffed individuals are used as decoration ornaments in some restaurants and hotels in the Macedonian countryside. Owing to weak law enforcement, restaurant owners are never prosecuted or questioned for the origin of protected species.



The general and most serious threats to the Balkan lynx population are: small population size, limited prey base, habitat degradation and poaching. The fact that the population size is estimated to be 32 mature individuals is posing a great threat of extinction to the Balkan lynx. More knowledge is needed to define the most important dispersal corridors. However, infrastructural development is posing a big threat to the corridor connectivity and could fragment suitable habitats in the future. Poaching is posing a threat in two ways: directly, through loss of individuals, and indirectly, through loss of lynx prey (roe deer, chamois, brown hare) (Melovski et al. 2013). Over-exploited forests throughout the 19th and 20th century have a hard time recovering. Recent forest loss study showed a decrease in quality of prime habitat (forest) and increase of transitional woodland shrub (Avukatov et al., 2019). Throughout the range in North Macedonia, there is the need to improve hunting management of game species (roe deer, chamois, hare) that constitute lynx prey base. Tourist resorts and recreational activities have an insignificant effect on the population, but this might change with the ever-demanding space for touristic resorts in the countryside. Still, trophy hunting (of ungulates) and ski resorts can be considered disturbances within the area of the national parks, where most of the Balkan lynx population exists. The expansion of the native Carpathian population (through eastern Serbia) and the reintroduced (from the Carpathian subspecies) Dinaric lynx population (though Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina) may pose a threat to the genetic integrity of the Balkan population. Social sciences studies indicate that public attitudes towards the lynx are generally positive, although the species is very poorly known among the public, and a great deal of misconceptions exist concerning its size, behaviour and ecology (Lescureux and Linnell 2010, Lescureux et al. 2011, Trajce 2010). Conflicts with livestock are low (Keci et al. 2008). In the past 3 years, few examples have indicated that road collisions (n=1), trapping lynx kittens (n=1) and mange (n=1) also have an effect on Balkan lynx population in North Macedonia.

Conservation actions

Conservation actions

The Eurasian lynx is included in Appendix II of CITES and strictly protected under the EU Habitats and Species Directive (Annexes II and IV). It is also included as strictly protected species under Appendix II of the Bern Convention.

The Balkan lynx is fully protected by two laws in North Macedonia: Law on Hunting (Official Gazette 20/1996) and Law on Nature Protection (Official Gazette 67/2004). It is listed as Emerald species in N.Macedonia. Although a recovery strategy and a National Action Plan for the Balkan lynx exist, they are not ratified by the relevant ministries. An advanced version of the Macedonian Action Plan dedicated only to the core area (Mavrovo National Park) has been developed with the park in 2013. In 2015 this Action Plan was approved by the park officials and its implementation is under way.

  1. A three-year project named “Balkan Lynx Recovery Programme” (BLRP) started in Macedonia and Albania in 2006 after several years of preparation (Breitenmoser-Würsten and Breitenmoser, 2001; von Arx et al., 2004). The project’s aim was to combine lynx protection and the establishment of new protected areas (prime lynx habitats) in MKD and ALB. The Balkan lynx was chosen as a flagship and umbrella species. The project’s main goals were: survey and monitoring of the Balkan Lynx, collecting baseline information on Balkan lynx distribution, population trend, abundance, prey availability etc., developing a range-wide Conservation Strategy and National Action Plan, define areas along the European Green Belt in the Balkan Lynx distribution and lobby for their proclamation as protected areas, and to build professional partnership consisting of relevant stakeholders in the field of nature protection (Breitenmoser et al., 2008). The project was sponsored by the Swiss-based MAVA Foundation. In parallel with these activities a Human Dimension project started in both countries and was funded by the Research Council of Norway. The objective of this project was to investigate the human-large carnivore relationship, possible conflicts, and the attitudes of the local people, and to build the capacities to meet the challenges of cross border cooperation in large carnivore conservation.

  2. A second phase of the Balkan Lynx Recovery Programme started in 2010 as a continuation of the previously defined goals and activities. The need for ground-truth data on Balkan lynx biology and ecology led to the first scientific project called: Status, ecology and land-tenure system of the critically endangered Balkan lynx in Macedonia and Albania (Breitenmoser et al., 2012). The project was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation under the SCOPES programme (Scientific Cooperation between Eastern Europe and Switzerland). The project started in 2010 and lasted until the end of the second phase of BLRP 2012. During this period, three male individuals were captured and fitted with GPS collars, one intensive camera-trapping survey was conducted in the core area and a wildlife monitoring network was created consisting of motivated and knowledgeable people.

  3. The third phase of the BLRP project (2013-2016) focuses mainly on two major goals: to work intensively on the monitoring and action plan development within the areas where Balkan lynx are present (Mavrovo NP and Munella Mt.), to expand the project’s activities to include Montenegro and Kosovo by conducting a baseline survey in both countries. This phase also focuses on awareness-rising at local, national and international levels, as well as on education-based activities for schoolchildren in primary schools.

4. The fourth and fifth phase (2016-2020) are focused on six different strategies: education of local children, declaring a protected area relevant for the Balkan lynx, efficiency in protected areas with Mavrovo NP being in the focus, policy work on most relevant laws, hunting and anti-poaching strategy trying to outline the reasons for poaching and the management of hunting grounds in Macedonia, and research and monitoring strategy looking into the Balkan lynx abundance, trend, occurrence in new areas and telemetry work.



Avukatov, V., Nakev, S., Melovski, D., Stojanov, A. & Pavlov, A. 2019. Analysis of forest changes in the potential and the currently occupied areas by the Balkan lynx (Lynx lynx balcanicus). MES report: 35 pp.

Breitenmoser, U., Shumka, S. & Hristovski, S. 2012. Status, ecology and land tenure system of the critically endangered Balkan lynx Lynx lynx martinoi in Macedonia and Albania. Final scientific report: 19 pp.

Breitenmoser, U., von Arx, M., Bego, F., Ivanov, Gj., Keçi, E., Melovski, D., Schwaderer, G., Stojanov, A., Spangenberg, A., Trajçe, A., Linnell, J. 2008. Strategic planning for the conservation of the Balkan lynx. in Proceedings, III Congress of Ecologists of Macedonia with International Participation Macedonian Ecological Society: 242-248.

Breitenmoser-Würsten Ch. & Breitenmoser, U. 2001. The Balkan lynx population – History, recent knowledge on its status and conservation needs. KORA Report 7: 39 pp.

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Freyer, H. 1842. Fauna der in Krein bekannter Säugethieren, Vögel Reptileien und Fischen. In Mirić, Dj. 1981: The lynx populations of the Balkan Peninsula (Lynx lynx martinoi Mirić, 1978). Posebno izdanje.

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Heldreich, T. 1878. La fauna de la Grèce. In Mirić, Dj. 1981: The lynx populations of the Balkan Peninsula (Lynx lynx martinoi Mirić, 1978). Posebno izdanje.

Keçi, E., Trajçe, A., Mersini, K., Bego, F., Ivanov, G., Melovski, D., Stojanov, A., Breitenmoser, U., von Arx, M., Schwaderer, G., Spangenberg, A., Linnell, J.D.C. 2008. Conflicts between lynx, other large carnivores, and humans in Macedonia and Albania, in: Proceedings of the 3rd Congress of Ecologists of the Republic of Macedonia with International Participation: 257-264.

Lescureux, N. & Linnell, J. 2010. Knowledge and perceptions of Macedonian hunters and herders: the influence of species specific ecology of bears, wolves, and lynx. Human Ecology 38: 389-399.

Lescureux, N., Linnell, J., Mustafa, S., Melovski, D., Stojanov, A., Ivanov, G., Avukatov, V., von Arx, M. & Breitenmoser, U. 2011. Fear of the unknown: local knowledge and perception of the Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx in western Macedonia. Oryx, Fauna and Flora International: 1-8.

Melovski , D., Ivanov, G., Stojanov, A., Trajce, A., Hoxha, B., Von Arx,M., Breitenmoser-Wursten, Ch., Hristovski, S., Shumka, S. & Breitenmoser, U. 2013. Distribution and conservation status of the Balkan lynx (Lynx lynx balcanicus Bureš, 1941). In Proceedings of the IV Congress of Ecologists of the Republic of Macedonia with International Participation Congress proceedings: 50-60.

Mirić, Dj. 1981. The lynx populations of the Balkan Peninsula (Lynx lynx martinoi Mirić, 1978). Posebo izdanje(55): 1-154.

Stojanov, A. 2020. Application of camera-trapping as a tool to establishing the number and density of Balkan lynx (Lynx lynx balcanicus Bureš, 1941) in Mavrovo National Park. Institute of Biology, Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University.

Taube, F. W. 1777. Historishce und geographische Beschreibung des Königreiseches Slavonien und des Herzogtums Syrmien. In Mirić, Dj. 1981: The lynx populations of the Balkan Peninsula (Lynx lynx martinoi Mirić, 1978) Posebno izdanje.

Trajce, A. 2010. Conservation planning for guilds or individual species? The relative perceptions of wolves, bears and lynx among the rural Albanian public. MSc thesis: 86 pp.

von Arx M., Breitenmoser‐Würsten Ch., Zimmermann F. & Breitenmoser U. 2004. Status and conservation of the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) in Europe in 2001. KORA report: 330 pp.