Estonia's growing lynx population increasingly venturing into urban areas

Lynx spotted on the patio of Restaurant Ülo in Põhja-Tallinn on Friday. July 21, 2023.
Lynx spotted on the patio of Restaurant Ülo in Põhja-Tallinn on Friday. July 21, 2023. Source: Anton Kostjuk

Mild winters and a growing population have made lynx less afraid to explore Estonia's urban space. Spotting the creatures in towns and cities is becoming increasingly common.

Last week, a lynx was spotted running around Tallinn's Balti jaam station and sitting outside a restaurant in the Kalamaja district.

While rescue workers only received information about the wild animal on Friday after being contacted by members of the public, city hunter Marko Olop said citings have been reported for some time.

Train drivers have seen the big cat sleeping on the platforms on several occasions, he told "Aktuaalne kaamera".

"It started its journey around the Open Air Museum and then went to Rocca al Mare, then it was seen at Stroomi beach, and it probably came to Balti jaam from there," Olop said.

The hunter said he receives several calls a year about lynx but it is unusual to see them in the middle of the city.

It was probably a younger animal as they tend to move around more while looking for a place to live, he said, which is why they are often spotted in urban areas. They are also less scared of humans.

Another lynx was also seen at the Lihula Olerex gas station, close to residential buildings, last week in western Estonia, and another in the middle of Maeru village in Harju County.

"Another reason is that a lot of forests are being cut down and the area is getting smaller. And the low level of hunting also plays a role. As far as I know, lynx have not been hunted for eight years," said Olop, explaining the factors behind the rising number of citings.

Milder winters also work in the big cats' favor, as the number of roe deer has increased making it easier for them to find food. These factors have contributed to the rapidly rising number of lynx in recent years.

Last fall, 86 females with offspring were recorded in Estonia and the number is expected to rise to over 100 this year.

Eurasian lynx spotted in a meadow near the Olerex gas station in Lihula. Source: Kertu Hool

If this happens, the Environment Agency may need to take action and has a plan for when the number rises above 100, said the Environment Agency's Margo Tannik.

"The lynx, unlike the wolf and the bear, does not harm people. When it does kill livestock, it does so very rarely. Whether or not to start hunting lynx is a subject for a wider debate," he added.

Tannik said a lynx is unlikely to stay in the city for long unless there is a forested area with deer.

Contacts between people and various wild animals have become more frequent in and around the capital Tallinn in recent decades.

Zoologist Uudo Timm said last month that continued urbanization plays a role, as well as the availability of smartphones to capture and share close encounters.


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Editor: Merili Nael, Helen Wright

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