ENVIRONMENTALISTS are excited by a photograph taken of a Eurasian lynx near Besançon in the Franche-Comté region.
This confirms the presence of a colony in the area, which is thought to include about 30 wild cats. There are already populations of lynx in the Jura, the Vosges and the Alps.
Lynx have characteristic tufts of black fur on the tips of their ears, long whiskers, short tails and paler fur on their chests and bellies.
They have large, padded feet enabling them to live in mountainous regions. They are said to have particularly reflective eyes.
There are four species of lynx including the Bobcat and the Canada lynx, but only the Iberian and the Eurasian lynx are found in Europe.
The latter is found extensively across the continent but the Iberian lynx, which only lives in Spain and Portugal, is close to extinction.
Lynx are not dangerous to human beings, but have been known to attack sheep and goats.
They eat around two kilos of meat a day and their natural prey includes deer, reindeer, rabbits, hares, foxes, squirrels, voles and birds including turkeys and grouse. Lynx swim very well and can also catch fish.
Lynx are the third largest predator in France, after brown bears and wolves. They are also extremely opportunistic and will snatch a lamb if they can.
This has resulted in some clashes between environmentalists and farmers, who are not always best pleased when lynx move into their area.
The association FERUS lobbies for protection for brown bears, grey wolves and lynx in France. See their website ferus.fr
Photo: Fédération Départementale des Chasseurs du Doubs