Rare lynx sightings in northern Italy excite naturalists

Rare lynx sightings in northern Italy excite naturalists
The Eurasian lynx. Photo: dogrando/Flickr
Two rare sightings of a lynx in the autonomous northern Italian province of Trentino in August and September have cheered nature lovers, who had feared for its survival.

The elusive wild cat, named B-132, was first sighted approximately ten years ago and is believed to be the only member of its species alive in the province today, reports La Stampa.

Lynxes, which can coexist peacefully with humans, were a common sight in Italy up until the late 19th century, when they were driven from the country by hunters as they were considered a threat to livestock – a fate also met by other large carnivores including bears and wolves.

Recent conservation efforts have aimed at reintroducing bears into the area, and Trentino is now home to approximately 50 wild bears.

But no such projects have been attempted in Italy with wolves, which are believed to naturally return to their original habitats in pursuit of prey if the environmental conditions are right, and lynxes, which feed on hares, foxes, deer, and mice.

As well as having been spotted in Trentino and the neighbouring northern regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia and Piedmont in recent years, lynxes have also been seen in the Apennines, a mountain range that runs the length of Italy from Liguria to Calabria, and, strangely, in the central eastern region of Abruzzo.

It is not known whether the specimens recently spotted in more central areas of the country made their way down from the Alps by themselves, were illegally reintroduced, or were never driven from the region in the first place and simply remained there undetected for decades.

Italy’s lynx population is currently estimated to be at several hundred, but there are no official estimates as their solitary nature and tendency to hunt only at night makes them hard to track for research purposes.