Wanted: female lynx

Today’s headline:

Jacqueline de Quattro demande aux chasseurs de l’aider à débusquer le lynx.

One of the canton’s elected officials (like a state senator in the US) is asking the canton’s hunters to help her thrush out a lynx. I read on, my pulse rising. I find the Swiss attitude towards wildlife very disturbing. This doesn’t look good for my blood pressure.

There are reportedly two female lynx in the “Prealps” region of the canton. Since April 2011, cantonal officials have been trying to trap one of them, in order to give it to Austria, who wants to reintroduce it to help control their deer-like game animal population (chevreuils and chamois).

“As of April 1, Vaud can still capture the lynx, but it will be competing with the cantons of Fribourg and Bern.”

So let’s get this straight. This lynx has evaded capture by cantonal authorities for almost a year. If Vaud doesn’t manage to nab her by April 1, the stakes of the hunt will go up a notch, because the other two neighboring cantons can join the fray. Huh? Is there some kind of bounty on her head? Is Austria paying for the lynx? What’s with the competition?  The article doesn’t say.

On Saturday, the state councilor addressed a crowd of more than 300 hunters at the annual meeting of “Diana Vaud” – the canton’s hunting association. She asked them to step in and help find the lynx.

“Over a territory of 365 square kilometers in the Vaudoise Alps, nine lynx have been identified,” says National Councilor Jean-Pierre Grin. “That’s five times more than the acceptable norm. It’s not good for the lynx and it’s not good for the game animals.”

Hello? 9/5 = 1.8.  What would eight-tenths of a lynx look like? What I do know is that with less than two, they can’t reproduce. Perhaps that’s the point.

See, the problem is this: there isn’t much wildlife in Switzerland. Large predators like woves and lynx were hunted down and exterminated so that the Alps could be covered with defenseless pea-brained goats, sheep and cows. The populations of other wildlife, like the chamois and chevreuils and boars, are kept in check by hunters, so everything remains in “balance.”

In the fall, the whole country goes into “game” mode. Every village café has it’s menu de chasse. You can even buy game in the supermarket! It’s a deep cultural thing, this hunt and feast. Man dominating nature. According to the article, 731 licensed hunters in the canton killed 1,668 chevreuils, 160 hares, and 373 boars in 2011. (The number of chamois wasn’t indicated.)

Eating more than 55 chevreuils per year, these felines are threatening the role of the hunting regulators. According to a survey done by Diana Vaud, nearly 80% of hunters think that the number of chamois has diminished between 2011 and 2012, because of the lynx. More than 60% think that the same is true of the chevreuil population. “In Switzerland, the lynx is a bigger problem for hunters than the wolf,” says the head of the ChasseSuisse association.

I know what you’re thinking. That’s not a very scientific or objective survey. No, it sure isn’t. Doesn’t seem to faze anyone, though. The problem is clear: the chevreuils’ and chamois’ natural predators are infringing on the human “wildlife entertainment” zone.  I can tell you right now who’s going to lose, and it’s not the hunters.

At least the lynx, unlike the wolves, have had the sense not to attack livestock. The Swiss go ballistic when a predator breaks that particular rule. Any idiot knows that human-raised food sources are off-limits.

Perhaps this control-oriented, precision approach to nature makes sense to the Swiss. To me, however, this chasse is a massive charade. There is nothing in this scenario that is even remotely “wild.”  The poor lynx is just trying to go about her business being a lynx. She doesn’t know the entire hunting population of the canton has its knickers in a twist because she and her kind are not following the rules of the game.

Maybe I find this so disturbing because I grew up in New Mexico, where coyotes, rattlesnakes, mountain lions, bobcats and bears are just part of the landscape.  The Native American culture that has been there for centuries recognizes these animals as beings worthy of respect, and they are given their due. It’s a coexistence, not a game.

My brother’s dog was attacked and almost killed by two big coyotes within meters of my mom’s house on the outskirts of Santa Fe. Packs of them howl at the full moon all year long. In the summertime a bear often visits at night, knocking over her bird feeders. Once I almost stepped on a rattlesnake in the back yard. Last summer, on an early morning run, I saw fresh mountain lion tracks. The adrenalin ran in my veins all the way home. I didn’t inform any authorities. The mountain lion had every right to be there.

Hunting happens. In the US, it helps control deer populations, even sometimes bear populations. I’m not an anti-hunting fanatic. But I still feel that wildlife shouldn’t be entertainment, to be tolerated when it suits us and exterminated or chased off our lands when it doesn’t. It’s part of the natural order. In a balanced world, we would share the planet.

I know. Things are out of balance, and have been for a long time. This is Europe, not North America. The Old World has been tame for centuries. Even the forests are manicured. Switzerland is a tiny country!

I don’t care. It still bothers me. I refuse to accept the excuses.

Over the next twelve days, the hunters aren’t allowed to actually intervene; they can only make observations and pass them along to the authorities. Then, says the article, at the end of the month, we shall see.

The Hunger Games is coming out this week. The parallels are just too stark for me. Ok, I’ll admit it, I’m having a hard time with this.

Here’s a novel idea: How about just leaving the lynx alone? And if the hunters fuss about their god-given right to go out and kill deer and the Swiss fuss about their menu de chasse in the fall, send them to Austria. That would be a win-win for everyone.

On second thought, maybe things are not so out of balance as I think. There are always the bacteria.

6 thoughts on “Wanted: female lynx

  1. When a lone wolf named OR-7 crossed into California from Oregon, I was overjoyed–but worried as it won’t be able to find a mate this far south…Turn around, go Back! The howls of a lone wolf or a pack of coyotes instill feelings I cannot describe…mystical and magical, inspirational and spiritual. I hope this lynx keeps its great escapes going! I have seen a small coastal bobcat, and a larger bobcat in Oregon. These larger kitties (he,he) are also magical and elusive. I wish this Swiss kittie all the best…..

  2. I was angry when I read de Quattro’s remarks and so delighted you put my feeling into words. There’s still a lot of room in the Swiss Alps for wild life, especially now that the builders have been slowed down!

  3. I’ve just found out some happy news. De Quattro wants the hunters to help her track down the lynx, not to kill it but to capture it! Austria needs a female lynx and Switzerland is offering one of theirs. As it is difficult to capture this wild animal, De Quattro has asked hunters to inform her if they see any sign of it.For example, it seems a lynx never finishes eating its prey, contrary to other animals, so if the hunters find a half devoured chamois, then the lynx is in the neighborhood. If the creature is captured, there will soon be baby lynx with Swiss/Austrian passports!

    • I knew that they weren’t going to kill the lynx, just track it down. I just hated the tone of the article, that the presence of the chevreuils’ natural predators was so bothersome to everyone, that they didn’t want it in the preAlps. Why would it want to go to Austria?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *