POACHERS are believed to have shot dead a lynx in the Jura department, which is home to almost the entire population of the animal in France.
The body of the three-year-old female animal - one of only 40 thought to be living in the wild in France - was found by a hiker last month below a cliff in Granges-de-Ladoye.
The body had been thrown from an outcrop, according to the Centre for the Protection of Wildlife in Athenas de Lons-le-Saunier.
Gilles Moyne, in charge of the wildlife protection centre, said: “The lynx is protected by the Berne Convention and under French law. Killing one is a crime.”
The shooting is the latest in a number of incidents. Two cases from 2013, which bore “strong evidence of poaching” are still under investigation in the department.
The centre has issued an appeal for witnesses to the shooting and the Office for Hunting and Wildlife has launched an investigation.
Mr Moyne said all lines of inquiry were open. He said: “Some hunters resent large predators. There are also breeders who may have suffered damage to their livestock.”