Lynx Species – Spanish Lynx (Lynx pardinus)
The most rare species of Lynx is the Spanish Lynx. Its natural habitat is open forest and sand dunes in isolated areas of Spain and Portugal. It is an endangered species, with only 1,000 remaining in the wild. Its prized fur and label of agricultural pest has greatly reduced its range. It is now found mainly in a small enclave in Spain and few scattered populations in remote areas of Portugal.
There are noted differences from its relatives, the Eurasian Lynx: it is much smaller and its coat is more heavily marked with darker spots.
Its diet primarily consists of rabbits and hare, but will hunt deer, ducks, and fish. It can reach up to 54 pounds, head and body up to three feet, seven inches, tail up to five inches. The female will give birth to two to three young after a nine week gestation period.
Common Name: Iberian Lynx, Spanish Lynx
Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)
Genus: Felinae (Lynx)
Misc.: The debate continues whether or not the Iberian Lynx is in fact a separate species from the Canadian and Siberian Lynxes, or merely a subspecies. Experts are evenly divided on this subject, but for now, it remains a separate species based on its marked adaptive differences for prey capture. The name Lynx comes from the Greek word “to shine,” and may be in reference to the reflective ability of the cat’s eyes.
Size and Appearance: The Iberian Lynx is similar in its appearance to the Eurasian Lynx, but about half its size. Adult males weigh on the average 27.5 pounds and the females average 20. The fur is typically grayish, with tints varying from yellowish to rusty and is distinctly spotted. They have a flared facial ruff, long prominent black ear tufts, and long hind legs with a short black tipped tail. Their large, wide-spreading feet are covered in fur, which act like snowshoes, and are effective in supporting the cat’s weight on the snow. They are often confused with their smaller feline cousins the Bobcat, but can be easily distinguished by their tail tips. The tail of the Lynx looks as though it was dipped in an inkwell being black all the way around, whereas the Bobcat’s tail appears to have been painted black on top and white on the bottom.
Habitat: These Lynx are found to inhabit scrub vegetation, Mediterranean woodland and maquis thicket.
Distribution: The Iberian Peninsula.
Reproduction and Offspring: After a gestation of approximately 60 days, females produce a litter of 2-3 kittens. They reach independence by the age of 7-10 months, but will
remain in their natal territory until around 20 months old. Sexual maturity for this cat is directly related to demographic and environmental factors, and most females will not reproduce until a
territory has been secured. This may occur as early as her first winter, or as late as 5 years, or possibly never at all.
In the wild, Iberian Lynx have lived up to 13 years.
Social System and Communication: Unknown. Believed to be the same as the Eurasian Lynx, which would indicate a solitary animal except for mothers and kittens.
Hunting and Diet: Like the Canadian Lynx, the mainstay of this Lynx’s diet is the rabbit. During the winter months when rabbit populations are low, it will switch its prey base to red deer, fallow deer, mouflon and ducks. The energy requirements for this Lynx have been found to be 1 rabbit per day. These animals are primarily nocturnal, except during the winter months when they have diurnal activity peaks.
Principal Threats: The largest threat facing this Lynx is habitat destruction and the destruction of its prey base. The prey also suffered a major blow when an introduced disease – poxvirus myxomatosis – to which the European Hare had no natural immunity and was nearly decimated. By the time they started building a resistance to this disease and the numbers started to recover, a new disease –viral hemorrhagic pneumonia – took its place and killed a large number of adult rabbits. This cat also suffers at the hands of man, frequently being killed by traps and snares set for rabbits, and by being hit by cars as the number of roads increase. The Spanish Government is now in the process of developing a national conservation effort to save the Iberian Lynx.
Status: CITES: Appendix I. IUCN: Endangered.
*****Animals are also ranked by their level of vulnerability on a global level, which in essence ranks their extinction risk. They are ranked from Category 1 (critical) to Category 5 (common-low conservation priority). The Iberian Lynx is listed as Category 1, with less than 100 animals remaining in the wild.
Felid TAG recommendation: Spanish lynx (Lynx pardinus). Considered one of the rarest species on earth, the Spanish lynx suffers from having disjunct populations, continued habitat loss and accidental death from trappers and automobiles. Although the Spanish are making plans to initiate a captive-breeding program, it is not likely that this species will ever become available for export to North America.
Information reprinted With Permission from the IUCN Wild Cats Book.