VIDEO: Driver films three lynx by side of French road

The video also raises awareness of the real risk of traffic collisions to the endangered animals

80% of the 150 adult lynx in France are in the Jura and Doubs region
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Three mountain lynx were captured on video this week in France after a driver in Jura noticed them along the side of the road.

The lynx can be seen trotting along and looking curiously at the interloper. Two run into the hedges and greenery quickly, but one stays alongside the road for longer, as the driver slowly comes up behind.

The driver posted the video online on April 29.

Traffic collisions ‘main cause of death’ for lynx in France

The video belies tragedy, however, and is a rare example of lynx remaining unharmed by a motorist. 

Since January this year, 13 lynx have already been hit and killed by drivers on roads in Doubs and Jura (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté). This is high; in 2023, 16 were killed by vehicles, down from 25 in 2022.

There are only 150 adult lynx in France, and 80% of them live in Doubs and Jura. The species is classified as ‘endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, meaning that it is at risk of extinction.

Read also: Two lynx kittens born in northern Vosges - the first in 400 years 
Read also: Lynx spotting adventure gives hope to reintroduction scheme in France 

Road traffic collisions are "one of the main, if not the main" cause of death for these animals in France, states the Plan national d’action (PNA) for lynx from the Ministry for Ecological Transition. Reducing collisions is one of the plan’s priorities as a result.

Some local mayors have also started to take action. 

Frédéric Toubin, deputy mayor of Sombacour in Doubs (which recently merged the communes of Bians-les-Usiers and Goux-les-Usiers to form the new commune of Val-d'Usiers), has installed four ‘Attention Lynx’ signs in the area in a bid to raise motorists’ awareness and encourage more careful driving.

The signs are in the shape of the traditional red-bordered triangle ‘alert’ signposts, and feature black silhouettes of an adult lynx with a cub. They were designed by the lynx activists at the wildlife rescue centre, the Centre Athénas – SOS Faune Sauvage (Jura, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté).

A lynx was found dead at the side of the road in Sombacour in March, and three lynx have been killed in the roads nearby over the past two years.

“It was probably the mother who was killed last year, and then her young after that,” said Mr Toubin to France 3.

Read also: Caught on camera: Rare lynx sightings in French Alps 

Signage success - and problems

The director of the Centre Athénas, Gilles Moyne, added that road traffic has increased by 2-3% on the most accident-prone roads in the area in the past year. The centre has distributed lynx alert signs to around 30 communes in a bid to help increase driver awareness and reduce lynx deaths.

“This type of road signage has been implemented on a large scale in Spain and it has worked, with fewer collisions,” Mr Moyne said.

However, the centre is now calling for the signs to be introduced on départementale and nationale roads, and not just routes around specific communes. Mr Moyne said that some of the signs have been vandalised by “anti-predator activists”. “Several have been broken, taken down, or stolen,” he said.

He also said that increasing the speed limit to 90 kph on many roads in Jura and Doubs “sends the wrong signal to motorists”, and makes them think they can drive very fast in the area.

He called for any drivers involved in an accident with a wild animal to stop - without getting out of your vehicle - and report it to the police and/or to the Centre Athénas. He said few drivers who hit lynx stop, out of “guilt or total indifference”, he said.