A recent news story speaks of a big cat on the loose in Paris. A woman first spotted the big cat on Thursday, November 13, 2014. She took a very fuzzy photo of the cat in some brush about 5 1/2 miles (9 km) away from Disneyland Paris. The cat was later spotted crossing a freeway and walking near a gas station. What kind of cat is this?

Searching for an Unknown Big Cat

Is a Lynx Loose in Paris?

Photo Credit: Jeremiah John McBride via Flickr

The claim that a big cat was in the area started a bit of a panic. French authorities jumped into action sending 140 emergency workers by foot and by helicopter to search for the big cat. Citizens were asked travel by vehicle rather than taking walks and to exercise extreme caution if they were to see the big cat.

At first this big cat was believed to be a tiger. There are estimates that the big cat is anywhere between 154 pounds (70 kg) to 177 pounds (80 kg), which would be a very young tiger. It was deemed that the tiger was likely a private pet that had gotten loose.

Now French authorities are not sure that they are looking for a tiger at all. It is very difficult to identify the exact species of cat from the photograph. The next guess is that the big cat is a lynx – probably an Iberian Lynx. This is still uncertain and some authorities say that it is “just a big cat.”

What is a Lynx?

A lynx is one of the smaller big cats. These cats are closely related to the bob cat and are often confused with them. There are 3 species of lynx: the Siberian lynx, the Iberian lynx, and the Canada lynx.There are several common characteristics between the 3 species of lynx:

  • They are very solitary cats that are only seen living together when a mother is raising her kittens or for the purpose of mating.
  • They are nocturnal cats.
  • The lynx can purr!
  • They are very territorial creatures.
  • They live in colder climates and have large, wide-spreading feet that act as snowshoes.
  • They have a flared facial ruff and long black ear tufts.
  • The lynx has amazing eye sight. They can see a mouse from 250 feet (75 m) away!
  • Their tails look as if they have been dipped in black ink (black all the way around the tail). This is different than the bobcat which has black only on the top of the tail.

The Siberian Lynx

Posing siberian lynx

Photo Credit: Tambako The Jaguar via Flickr

The Siberian lynx is found mostly in Asia, Europe, and the former USSR. These are the largest of the lynx species with the males weighing up to 90 pounds. On average the Siberian lynx is 31 to 43 inches (80 to 110 cm) long and weighs 33 to 64 pounds (15 to 29 kg). In the wild they have been known to live 17 years and in captivity up to 24 years.

The fur of the Siberian lynx is a grayish color with yellow to rust colored tints. They are found with 3 different patterns: predominantly spotted, predominantly striped, and patterned. The spots are more visible during the summer than during the winter.

The preferred diet of the Siberian lynx includes small ungulates (mammals with hooves), hares, large rodents, musk deer, and pikas. However, they have been known on occasion to hunt prey that is 3 -4 times their size! Reindeer make a tasty meal for the Siberian lynx.

A Siberian lynx typically has a litter of 1 -4 kittens after a gestation period of 69 days. Males reach sexual maturity at the age of 30 months and females at the age of 24 months.

The Iberian Lynx

Iberian Lynx

Photo Credit: Steve Slater

The Iberian lynx has an average weight of 27.5 pounds for males and 20 pounds for females. Much like the siberian lynx, they have grayish fur with yellow – rust color tints. However, they are distinctly spotted. They are found on the Iberian Penninsula (containing Spain, Portugal, and Andorra). In the wild the only live about 13 years.

The diet of the Iberian lynx is mostly rabbits. If the supply of rabbits is low, they will eat red deer, ducks, and mouflon. They need to eat at least 1 rabbit per day for survival.

There is no true age of sexual maturity for the Iberian lynx. Females will not mate until they have claimed their territory (regardless of age). Their gestation period is 60 days and will produce litters of 2- 3 kittens.

The Iberian lynx is the most threatened species of cat in the world. According to Fauna & Flora International, there are less than 200 Iberian lynx left. The only 2 breeding populations left are found in Spain. The species became threatened because of the destruction of their habitat and that of their prey.

The Canada Lynx

Canada lynx

Photo Credit: Oregon State University

The Canada Lynx is the lightest lynx weighing only 11 to 37 pounds (5 to 17 kg). They have a coat that can be gray to reddish-brown with white tips. A rare genetic mutation can also produce a “blue lynx.” Indistinct spots can be found their coats. The Canada lynx is found in Canada, Alaska, and the northern part of the United States. In the wild, they have been known to live 15 years and in captivity 21 years.

The diet of the Canada lynx consists mostly of snowshoe hares. When those are scarce, they will eat small rodents, small ungulates, and ground birds.

The age of sexual maturity and the number of offspring produced correlates directly with the snowshoe hare population. A female Canada lynx will reach sexual maturity as early as 10 months of age and males around 23 months of age. They have a gestation period of 63 to 70 days and can have litters with 1 to 8 kittens.

What would you think if you saw a lynx in your neighborhood?