For the Baltic population, Estonia is vital. Lynx is distributed over
more or less the entire country in a comparatively high number (see
map and Table 2). The densities
are highest in the forests of the north and centre (LÕHMUS 2001). This
corresponds well with the distribution in neighbouring Russia where
the density towards the south decreases as well. In Latvia, lynx presence
is most coherent along the border with Estonia and becomes scattered
further south (see Latvian report). The Estonian database does not allow
to separate permanently and occasionally occupied regions (see
point 1). The available information is mainly derived from hunting,
also the official population estimates (Table
3.2). Since 1954, an inventory has existed, though without following
a coherent methodology (MÄNNIL 2002). The official population numbers
are considered to be overestimated (Table
3.1, LÕHMUS 2001). When taking into account an inaccuracy of 20%
(Table 3.1), the current population
size would reduce to 720 animals. An additional estimate made after
a census in 1999 was 450 animals, however it was supposed to be underestimated
(Valdmann in LÕHMUS 2001). The disagreement on the methods to be used
for the population estimates is also indicated in Table 3.2. The Estonian
lynx management plan (LÕHMUS 2001, ELF 2001) makes allowances for the
fact that there is quite an uncertainty regarding the census and indicates
as present population size a range of 600-900 individuals. According
to the management plan, the long-term aim is to maintain a population
of at least 500 lynx. However, to increase the reliability and accuracy
of the estimations, the monitoring needs improvement. H. VALDMANN considers
this to be the most urgent measure for the lynx population in Estonia
More accurate numbers would allow for a better hunting management.
The possibility to continue hunting (of all large carnivores) is amongst
the main objectives of the management plan (LÕHMUS 2001). The lynx number
is said to have to be regulated because it is regarded as threat to
the public health (rabies¹), to reduce its impact on game ungulate
populations, and to preserve its shyness towards humans (ESTONIAN
MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT 2000,
LÕHMUS 2001). Following a peak of the lynx population in Estonia in
the mid 1990s (Fig. 3.1), the number
was intentionally reduced through intensive hunting (Table
3.1, MÄNNIL 2003, VALDMANN 2003). From 1996-2001, a total of 1012
lynx (which is an annual average of 169 animals) were harvested (Table
4.3), making up to 20% of the entire population considering the
official figures. Taking into account that the population was likely
overestimated, the loss was even higher. LÕHMUS (2001) recommends reducing
hunting in the coming years to a magnitude of 10% of the official estimate.
According to H. VALDMANN (pers. comm.), the harvest number for 2002
was 81 animals, less than half of the number in the year before (Table
4.3). As Estonia wants to continue regulating the lynx numbers through
hunting (see above), but will recently join the European Union, the
country applied for exclusion of all large carnivores from the Annexes
II & IV of the Habitat Directive and inclusion to Annex V. This
application has however only been met in the case of wolf (Table
4.1, ESTONIAN MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT 2000, LÕHMUS 2001). As lynx does hardly cause any
damage to livestock (point 5), derogations
to the Habitat Directive are difficult to fulfil. Estonia has, so far,
maintained a healthy lynx population in spite of or maybe because of
regulated hunting. The population clearly supports a certain harvest,
and such a harvest increases the acceptance of a large carnivore species.
The examples of Poland or Slovakia demonstrate that a ban on hunting
may not lead to an increase of the species’ abundance. A ban of hunting
may also in Estonia have a counterproductive impact. What however should
be considered is a diversification of the hunting management. Estonia
may contribute to strengthen the population towards the south (Latvia,
Lithuania and Belarus) through a reduced hunting along its southern
Although the knowledge on the lynx in Estonia clearly needs improvement
(first research projects started a few years ago, VALDMANN 2001, 2002,
2003) we consider the status to be rather "least concern"
than "data deficient" (Table 8). Even when assuming a lower
population size than the official data, the population seems to be safe.
Major threats are not obvious at present (Table
6), potentially maybe over-hunting could be one (LÕHMUS 2001). Due
to its importance for the Baltic population west of Russia, international
co-operation has to be continued (e.g. Baltic Large Carnivore Initiative)
or enhanced (towards Russia). In regard to the genetic similarity of
the Baltic and the Finnish lynx (see population assessments and Phylogenetic
history and subspecies), we recommend to develop a common conservation
strategy with neighbouring Russia and Finland regarding the conservation
of the species in the vicinity of the Gulf of Finland.
1 Lynx can get rabies (as indicated in Table 4.3),
but lynx is not a vector species for rabies. A control of the lynx population
has no effect on the rabies epidemic.
LARGE CARNIVORE INITIATIVE:
FUND FOR NATURE (ELF) 2001: Report of the Status of Large Carnivore
Conservation in the Baltic States and Action Plan for the Baltic Large
Carnivore Initiative 2001-2005. Council of Europe Publishing, Strasbourg:
1-25 plus Annexes.
MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT
2000: Conservation status of large carnivores in Estonia. The Bern
Convention Group of Experts on Conservation
of Large Carnivores. Report Oslo Meeting 22-24 June 2000, Council
of Europe Publishing, T-PVS (2000) 33, Strasbourg: 46-47.
A. 2001: Large Carnivore Control and Management Plan for Estonia, 2002-2011.
Status of Large Carnivore Conservation in the Baltic States. Council
of Europe Publishing, Strasbourg: 1-53.
P. 2002: State actions for large carnivore conservation in Estonia in
2002. Abstract, 5th Baltic Theriological Congress held in Lithuania,
P. 2003: Conservation requirements on large carnivores – efficient
or not in Northern Baltic. Status, monitoring and management of large
carnivores in Estonia. Abstract, Carpathian Workshop on Large Carnivore
Conservation, Brasov (Romania) 12-14 June 2003.
H. 2001: Current situation of the large carnivores in Estonia. Proceedings
of the BLCI Symposium "Human dimensions of large carnivores in
Baltic countries", 27-29 April 2001, Siauliai, Lithuania: 38-44.
H. 2002: Lynx (Lynx lynx) in Estonia: Genetic differentiation, diet,
habitats and diseases. Abstract, 5th Baltic Theriological Congress held
in Lithuania, April 2002.
H. 2003: Estonia. In: The Lynx – Regional Features of Ecology,
Use and Protection, Ed. by YE.N. Matyushkin & M.A. Vaisfeld, Moscow
Nauka 2003: 85-92.
of the BLCI Symposium 2001, abstracts of the 5th Baltic Theriological
Congress 2002, as well as the Estonian lynx Management plan, and the
ELF report can be downloaded at: