The Iberian lynx is a very rare medium-sized cat living only on the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal). Because Spain is one of the two countries they live in, these animals are also called Spanish lynxes. Lynxes in general can be recognized by the tufts of hair on the tips of their ears. These animals are the most endangered of the world’s thirty-six known wild cat species, and only around two hundred of them are left in the wild. Iberian lynxes have a yellow, red, or brown colored coat with dark brown or black spots. Their underside is white. Although these animals resemble their nearby neighbor the Eurasian lynx, they are much smaller than this species and have the same facial features as a house-cat. The maps below show how the Iberian lynx’s range has decreased over the past several years. The map with black for the range shows the where these animals lived in 1980 while the one with green as the range depicts their range as of 2003.
Iberian lynxes live in woodland, scrub-land, and grassland habitats. They like areas that have thickets and clear areas. This video, which is about the captive breeding and releasing into the wild of these animals, gives a good view of good Iberian lynx habitat. One reason these lynxes live in the habitat they do is because their favorite food lives there also.
The main food of Iberian lynxes is rabbits. The lynxes eat almost only rabbits (ninety percent of their diet) unless the rabbit population decreases for some reason, normally disease. Alternative food includes ducks, other birds, young deer and even mouflon, a type of wild sheep. Normally an adult Iberian lynx eats one rabbit each day while adult female lynxes with young will consume up to three rabbits each day! After eating, these lynxes will most of the time bury the remains of their victim. Diseases to rabbits have been causing severe population declines in rabbits and therefore Iberian lynxes, even though there are other animals that can be eaten. Other larger animals may be harder for these lynxes to attack and kill.
The average female Iberian lynx weighs about twenty pounds (9 kg) while the average males weighs around twenty-nine pounds (13 kg) The minimum and maximum recorded weights are eleven and thirty-three pounds (5 and 15 kg). The combined head and body length of these animals is from twenty-six to thirty-nine inches (65-100 cm) with a tail length of up to seven inches (19 cm). The shoulder height of these animals ranges from sixteen to twenty inches (40-50 cm). On average, males are ten to thirty percent larger than females.
Mating and young
Another factor contributing to the decline of Iberian lynxes is how picky the females are. Females will only mate when they have found a suitable territory (both males and females are territorial). This may take several years, or the females may never find a place that suits their tastes. Females only mate once each year if they breed at all that year. Mating season is normally from December through February. After a sixty to seventy day pregnancy, in between one and four, though usually two or three young Iberian lynxes are born. These babies, which are called kittens just like with house cats, are born mostly in March and April. Most dens are found at the base of a hollow cork oak tree. This fact shows how important these trees are to the population of Iberian lynxes. For the first twenty days, they kittens will stay in their birth den, but the mother will move them around to as many as four other dens. This strategy helps prevent parasite build up in dens, gives the kittens more room to develop motor skills, and keeps predators from finding the den due to waste build up and other smells. By the age of twenty-eight days, the young are eating solid food, but continues obtaining milk from their mother until the age of three or four months. After ten months of life, the young are completely independent. If lucky, these animals can live for up to thirteen years in the wild.
Status, threats, and conservation
The IUCN redlist states that this lynx species is critically endangered. There are many reasons for such a low population for these animals. Only about half of the young make it to ten months of age. Another half die while attempting to find their own territory. Causes of these deaths include traps meant for other animals, automobiles, and drowning in wells. Also females do not mate every year and some may never mate at all. The decline of the rabbit population also contributes to a low population. Iberian lynxes are now being captive bred and released into the wild around the age of one or two years. This helps reduce the death rate of young and also provides them with enough food. If you did not see it earlier, here is a video of the a young lynx being released into the wild.
Don’t forget to scroll down and comment your guess about what the next animal is!
- Iberian lynx – Klia
- Iberian lynx range now – Public domain
- Iberian lynx range earlier – Public domain
- Mystery animal – vastateparksstaff