Iberian Lynx Facts

Iberian Lynx Facts

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.

Iberian Lynx

Iberian Lynx Facts

Common Name: Iberian Lynx, Spanish Lynx
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Felinae (Lynx)
Species: pardina
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.

Recovery of the Iberian lynx from the edge of extinction

by Dr. Jim  Sanderson (written when there were only 85 remaining Iberian Lynx)

In 1952, Professor P. F. Armand-Delille, a retired bacteriologist and member of the French Academy of Medicine, deliberately infected two European hares with Myxoma virus (the virus that causes myxomatosis in lagomorphs—hares and rabbits) and released them on his “enclosed” private estate in northern France.  His eradication program was successful and within six weeks 98% of the hares on his estate were dead.  Disastrously and presumably unexpectedly, at least one infected hare escaped the professor’s estate.

Within a year, nearly half of France’s wild hares were dead and the virus had spread across Western Europe and invaded the Iberian Peninsula.  Hare populations were decimated.  In the hunting season of 1952-53 more than 55 million hares were taken.  A few years later in the 1956-57 hunting season just 1.3 million hares were harvested.  As prey populations plunged, predator populations also declined.  

Hunting hares and the occasional Iberian lynx is a way of life in rural Portugal and Spain and old ways die hard.  While hare and Iberian lynx populations spiraled downward, hunting and trapping continued.  Iberian lynx, fox, genet, and hares were also caught in traps.  Vehicles also contributed to the death toll.

Biologists studying the Iberian lynx closely were acutely aware of the plight of the Iberian lynx but were slow to appreciate the gravity of the situation.  By 1998, there were an estimated 500-600 Iberian lynx in Spain and still the alarm bells remained silent.  None had been seen in Portugal since about 1990.  One must wonder just how low the Iberian lynx population would have had to have fallen before biologists studying the Iberian lynx proclaimed a crisis.  No captive breeding programs were producing offspring.  No serious effort to reintroduce virus-safe hares was proposed.  The population of hares and Iberian lynx continued to decline and by 2004 fewer than 85 Iberian lynx remained.  Finally, conservation efforts were mobilized but responsibility and leadership were lacking.  Captive breeding programs could not put a male and female Iberian lynx in the same enclosure. Fortunately, by 2008 the captive breeding program produced several offspring.

Under European Union and world pressure to reverse the population crash of the Iberian lynx, conservation efforts in Spain were fully mobilized.  The European Union committed EU50,000,000 over 10 years to the Iberian lynx recovery program.  Meanwhile, precious former habitat of the Iberian lynx is continuing to disappear and what is left is bisected by multi-lane roads.  Perhaps the crisis has passed its nadir.  Only with hindsight will we be certain.  One lesson is transparent however: captive breeding programs must start well before a crisis begins.

In 2004, the Iberian lynx was the most threatened wild cat in the world.  Because present conservation efforts are strongly supported by the European Union, the Iberian lynx is one of the best studied wild cats in the world.  The Iberian lynx occurs in areas inhabited by humans where in the past lynx sport hunting was a favored pastime, education programs are an important aspect of aggressive conservation actions that also include captive breeding of Iberian lynx, prey population enhancement, and detailed studies of wild Iberian lynx.  

In 2008, the first captive-born Iberian lynx gave birth.  Moreover, captive births included births from parents from different Iberian lynx populations in Spain.  Captive born individuals were used to start other captive breeding centers.  Iberian lynx individuals were then reintroduced into the wild.  As of late 2018 there were four captive breeding centers in Spain and one in Portugal.  In 2019, captive breeding programs had 85 individual Iberian lynx.   

Experience with other reintroduction programs showed that Iberian lynx reintroductions in Spain and Portugal required a determined, sustained, long-term effort that needed many captive-born individuals.  Reintroduction programs also require enhancing environmental education in local communities and working with popular hunting organizations to replace rifles with cameras.  Without the support of local people, Iberian lynx populations will never recover.

Efforts to re-establish the Iberian lynx in Portugal will be slowed but not compromised by construction of the Odelouca dam in what was once prime Iberian lynx habitat.  Following intense negotiations with the EU, the company constructing the dam was encouraged to support Iberian lynx conservation efforts.  Aggressive conservation efforts along a broad front are already underway in Portugal.  

The European Union remained determined to increase the population of wild Iberian lynx in Spain and to re-establish wild populations in Portugal.  The Iberian lynx was the first wild cat to be listed as Critically Endangered.  In 2018, the Iberian lynx was downlisted to Endangered.  If all goes according to plan, in 2025 the Iberian lynx will be downlisted to Vulnerable.  Only then will the results of long-term conservation actions taking place now be fully appreciated.

See Conservation Work Funded By Big Cat Rescue here:

All conservation insitu work: https://bigcatrescue.org/insitu/

Similar Posts


Leave a Reply

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