There are four species of Lynx in the world, the Eurasian Lynx lives in Europe and Asia, The Iberian Lynx which is only found in Spain, it was in Portugal but no longer. Then there is the Canadian Lynx and the Bobcat which is also a type of Lynx.
The Lynx was exterminated in France around 1900, its last strongholds were the Massif Central, the Jura the French Alps were one was shot in 1928 and also the Pyrenees-Orientales. These would therefore be the areas where one would expect them to be able to reestablish themselves most easily.
The recolonization has been the result of introductions from animals taken from Eastern Europe. These reintroduction were made in the 1970’s in the Vosges and also again between 1983 and 1993 another 21 were released. Also there have been releases in The Jura and the Alps with 20 being released between 1971 and 1976 Some of the offspring from the Swiss population has now crossed over the border into French territory. There are now three nuclei of populations; the Jura where the population is estimated at between 74 to 108, The Vosges with between 23 and 34 and the Alps with between 15 to 22.
It is thought that the Lynx has never become extinct in the Pyrenees but its presence is at a very low-level. There are records of one being shot in 1957 at Lurien in the Western Pyrenees. Recently there are suggestions of three regions occupied by Lynx, one in the west one central and one eastern however much of the evidence seems somewhat tenuous. The most likely region is Ariege and St Girons in Haute Garonne.
Finally there is evidence from central France in 2010 from an area between the Monts du Lyonnais and Monts du Beaujolais and then most recently a visual sighting in 2012 form Vivarra in the Ardeche.
So it does seem to be spreading slowly but I suggest considerably slower than the Wolf. This may de something to do with life style. The lynx is a solitary species unlike the pack of wolves. The females have a relatively small territory of between 100 to 150 square km that is only a region of 10 km by 10km, not so much really. Males roam further with a territory of between 200 to 450 square Km, this is no doubt because their roaming is not only to find food but also females. So a major factor in their spread will be the number of encounters between males and females and consequently the number of offspring being produced. On average they live for about 17 years so long as they are not shot or run over. Wolves will also attack them and there are normally less Lynx in areas colonised by wolves.
They are protected by law and are less likely to attack domestic animals (sheep) than wolves are. Their prefered prey is deer, Roe and Red deer, whilst red deer are quite large, the lynx is able to tackle them and of course killing one red deer will provide a substantial amount of food in one hit. Incidentally the population of Red deer in France has quadrupled between 1985 and 2005 when it was estimated at 151,000. As with all wildlife, their presence in a region substantially adds to the tourist potential of a region, even if you are most unlikely to actually see the animal as you drive around. I mentioned in an earlier post on Wolves that I went to Eastern Poland in 2011 partly because of the wildlife, I had a good time and did see Lynx footprints and pictures of them such as on information boards and advertising Hotels. The Polish for Lynx is Rys.
For more information on Lynx you can visit these websites.
Lynx reports from 2001 to 2012:http://www.carnivores-rapaces.org/Lynx/Actualite/actualite.htm