Iberian lynx are one of two carnivore species endemic to Europe (the other being European mink, Mustela lutreola). Their historical range is restricted to the Iberian Peninsula, primarily the southwestern region of Spain and much of Portugal. Although they were once widespread throughout the region, their geographic range has contracted at an alarming rate over the last century and a half. A century ago, the species was still present in northern Iberia and maintained relatively high densities in the south. Within fifty years, they had become nearly extinct in the north and were rapidly declining in the south. The most significant period of decline was between 1960 and 1990, during which their range contracted by nearly 80%. Currently, they occupy about 2% of their original range.
In 1988, a survey estimated that there were about 880 to 1150 adult Iberian lynx living in nine populations across a very fragmented range. A more recent survey, published in 2008, shows that lynx numbers are much lower than previously estimated. The presence of Iberian lynx could only be confirmed in the southwestern quarter of the Iberian Peninsula, and population estimates suggest that there are between 475 and 680 adults living in five different populations throughout the region. Currently, the largest concentration of lynx live in Donana National Park (1500 km^2), where they are heavily protected. Though Iberian lynx were once common in Portugal, they are now thought to be completely extirpated from the country. Their presence in Portugal has not been confirmed since January, 1992.
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native )
- Delibes, M., A. Rodriguez, F. Pablo. 2000. Action Plan for the Conservation of the Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus) in Europe. Nature and Environment, No. 111: 7-42.
- Deliebs, M. 2009. The Worlds Most Endangered Felid. Pp. 652 in D Macdonald, ed. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Mammals, Vol. 1, 1 Edition. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
- Ferreras, P., M. Delibes, . Palomares, . Fedriani, J. Calzada, E. Revilla. 2004. Proximate and Ultimate Causes of dispersal in the Iberian Lynx Lynx Pardinus. Behavioral Ecology, Volume 15/ Issue 1: 31-40. Accessed August 05, 2010 at http://beheco.oxfordjournals.org.
- Pedro Sarmento, , Joana Cruz, Pedro Monterroso, Pedro Tarroso, Catarina Ferreira, Nuno Negrões, Catarina Eira. 2008. Status survey of the critically endangered Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) in Portugal. European Journal of Wildlife Resources, Original Paper: 1-7.
Iberian lynx are similar in appearance to their close relative, Eurasian lynx, but are about half the size. They are similar in size to Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) and Bobcat (Lynx rufus), and males are larger than females. They have relatively small heads, long legs, and very short, black-tipped tails, which is a common characteristic of Lynx species. They have short, flat faces, and black tufts on the ears and jowls that give them a bearded appearance, which is especially evident in adults. They have tawny pelage, which is mottled with dark spots that vary greatly in size, shape, and color intensity. Recent efforts have been made to characterize the configuration, size, and intensity of these spots, which may prove useful in determining the degree of genetic diversity within the species.
As small prey specialists, Iberian lynx have a foreshortened skull that maximizes the bite force of the canines. In addition, they have more narrow muzzles, longer jaws, and smaller canines than felines that specialize on larger prey. These adaptations provide an advantage when catching small, fast prey and allow Iberian lynx to deliver a single kill bite that punctures the back of the neck, thus severing the spinal cord (as opposed to suffocating bites, common in larger cats). Small-prey felids have smaller canines that result in a smaller contact area. When compared to the large, rounded canines found in large-prey cats, a smaller contact area results in increased bite force per unit contact area. As a result, small-prey cats punctures the skin of prey more easily than their large-prey counterparts.
Range mass: 11 to 15 kg.
Average mass: 12.8 kg.
Range length: 80 to 130 cm.
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
- Beltrán, J., M. Delibes. 1993. Physical Characteristics of Iberian Lynxes (Lynx pardinus) from Doñana, Southwestern Spain. Journal of Mammology, Vol. 74 No.4: 852-862. Accessed May 08, 2010 at http://www.jstor.org/stable/1382423.
- Cope, E. 1879. On the Genera of Felidae and Canidae. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Vol. 31 No. 2: 168-194. Accessed May 08, 2010 at http://www.jstor.org/stable/4060308.
- Meachen-Samuels, J., B. Van Valkenburgh. 2009. Craniodental Indicators of Prey Size Preference in the Felidae. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 96: 784-789.
Habitat and Ecology
The Iberian Lynx is a strict feeding specialist; the European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) accounts for 80-99% of its diet (Ferreras et al. 2010). The Iberian Lynx is also a habitat specialist that breeds only in Mediterranean shrubland containing dense rabbit populations (Palomares et al. 2000, Palomares 2001). Threshold rabbit densities for lynx reproduction are 4.5 ind./ha during the annual population peak and 1.0 ind./ha during the annual trough (Palomares et al. 2001). Productive breeding territories also contain a high density of scrub-pasture ecotones which favour both ecological conditions for rabbits and a structure suitable for lynx hunting (Palomares 2001, Fernndez et al. 2003). Other essential habitat elements include natural cavities that are used as natal dens (Fernndez et al. 2002, 2006). On the other hand, forestry landscapes, farmland or other open land devoid of native shrubs are rarely used by resident lynx (Palomares et al. 1991) but occasionally used by subadults during natal dispersal (Palomares et al. 2000).
Iberian lynx require variable terrain below 1300 m, containing a mosaic of closed Mediterranean scrubland interspersed with open patches of grassland, often with marsh ecotones. This natural mosaic landscape creates the optimal balance of shrub cover and open space. Lynx use areas of scrubland as shelter as well as for bedding and breeding. Areas with minimal cover provide habitat for their primary prey, European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), which occur in higher densities in these locations. Unfortunately, Iberian lynx have disappeared from many areas containing suitable habitat, presumably due to low rabbit densities.
Iberian lynx habitat in Donana National Park is relatively flat (0 to 50 m above sea level) and has a Mediterranean sub-humid climate. This particular ecoregion is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and has marked seasonality.
Like most felids, Iberian lynx are solitary animals that exhibit a metapopulation demographic structure. They depend on dispersal between populations to avoid inbreeding and thus, require movement corridors between areas of suitable habitat. Corridors allow individuals to search for habitats outside of their of natal territory.
Range elevation: 0 to 1300 m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; scrub forest ; mountains
Other Habitat Features: agricultural
Like most felids, Iberian lynx frequently hunt alone and kill prey with a single bite to the neck. Their small size and well-camouflaged coat make them well adapted for hunting small mammals. Their primary prey is European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), which makes up between 80 and 100% of their daily biomass consumption. A single adult lynx requires between 600 and 1000 kcal per day, which is approximately the amount of energy contained within a single rabbit. An adult female with young requires up to three rabbits per day. Iberian lynx are considered specialist predators, and prey preference exhibits little geographic or seasonal variation. When European rabbits are scarce, alternative prey items consist of small vertebrates including rodents (Rodentia) and European hare (Lepus granatensis). They also consume birds, including red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa), ducks, and geese and are known to occasionally prey on juvenile ungulates such as red deer (Cervus elaphus), fallow deer (Dama dama) and mouflon (Ovis musimon).
Animal Foods: birds; mammals
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)
In addition to their dependence on European rabbits as prey, Iberian lynx have very specific habitat requirements. As a result, they may serve as reliable bioindicators of ecosystem health. In addition, moderate population densities of Iberian lynx may have a positive effect on overall prey fitness, as predation may act as a disease control mechanism. Finally, adult lynx often kill competitor species (i.e., small carnivores), resulting in an increase in prey abundance, thereby decreasing the per-capita territory requirements of individual lynx.
As an apex carvinore, Iberian lynx have no natural predators.
Known prey organisms
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
Like all felids, Iberian lynx have vertical pupils and excellent vision, especially during times of low visibility. They have excellent reflexes, their whiskers provide highly detailed haptic data, and their large ears result in excellent hearing. Most solitary cats are silent unless threatened or with young, which emit calls when distressed.
Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
The oldest wild Iberian lynx was 13 years old at time of death. Longevity of captive individuals is unknown. Mortality rates are highest among dispersing lynx (48% annually), most of which have not reproduced by the time they die. Mortality is often human induced and includes traffic collisions, illegal hunting (5% annually), bycatch in traps (6% annually), dogs, falling into wells, and forest fires.
Status: wild: 13 (high) years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Under typical population densities (0.08 adults/km^2), Iberian lynx are polygynous. In the most prey rich habitats of northern Donana National Park, the population density is much higher ( 0.8 adults/km^2). This population is close to its carrying capacity, and the total number of suitable territories is low, thus increasing intrasexual competition. As a result, males are forced to have smaller territories that are more easily defended against rival males. Under these unique circumstances, males focus their efforts on defending exclusive access to a single female, resulting in monogamy.
Mating System: monogamous ; polygynous
Iberian lynx reach sexual maturity at around 1 year of age, though females only breed once they've secured a territory of their own. Estrus peaks in January, however females may re-enter estrus if gestation is interrupted or they lose a litter prematurely. Females give birth to a maximum of one litter per year, but only breed if their habitat is of sufficient quality. Average reproductive rate for an individual female is 0.8 litters per year. Gestation lasts for 63 to 73 days and most births occur between March and April. Litters range in size from 2 to 4 kittens, with an average of 3. Kittens are semi-altricial at birth, and in most cases only 2 offspring survive weaning, which occurs 10 weeks after birth. Iberian lynx are independent by 7 to 8 months old.
Breeding season in Iberian lynx occurs from January to July and is the only time males and females interact. Breeding territories of adult males typically overlap with those of several females. Males defend their territories against rival males and may potentially breed with any female who shares part of his territory. Aggressive interactions over mating rights are rare; however, high-density populations usually experience higher rates of aggressive intrasexual interactions than low-density populations, and may occasionally result in death.
Breeding interval: Iberian Lynx breed once per year
Breeding season: January to July
Range number of offspring: 2 to 4.
Range gestation period: 63 to 73 days.
Average weaning age: 10 weeks.
Range time to independence: 7 to 8 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
Average number of offspring: 2.5.
Prior to giving birth, female Iberian lynx locate a secluded natural structure which serves as the natal den for her offspring. Often, females establish den sites in large tree hollows; however, rock caves, boulder piles, ground dens, or rabbit warrens that have been expanded by another animal, such as a badger, are also potential den sites.
Iberian lynx kittens are born semi-altricial. As a result, they have poor thermoregulatory control and are vulnerable to predation. By giving birth in a small space (e.g., tree hollow), adult females keep their kittens grouped tightly together, which protects from heat loss and predators. Kittens remain in their natal dens for nearly twenty days until they become too large and too mobile for the confined space. Female lynx move their young between a series of auxiliary dens, typically under bushes or in dense scrubland, and occupy each for a decreasing period of time until kittens can accompany their mother on hunts. Frequent den relocation is a common behavioral adaption among felids that decreases ectoparasite loads and reduces predation risk. Den selection is influenced by prey abundance, and females have been known to utilize as many as six auxiliary dens.
Iberian lynx kittens nurse until they are 10 weeks old; however, they begin to consume prey captured by their mother after 1 month. During the denning period, mothers spend most of the day in or around the den, resting during the hottest hours and hunting during the cooler dusk period. Like many felids, Iberian lynx kittens begin to show fine motor skills around two months old. Around this same time, they occasionally leave their dens to accompany their mother on outings and begin developing hunting skills. At seven months old, juvenile lynx spend around 60% of their time with their mother and will live independently within their natal territory until reaching reproductive maturity and dispersing.
Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); inherits maternal/paternal territory
- Fernández, N., M. Delibes, F. Palomares, D. Mladenoff. 2003. Identifying Breeding Habitat for the Iberian Lynx: Inferences from a Fine-Scale Spatial Analysis. Ecological Applications, Vol. 13 No. 5: 1310-1324. Accessed May 08, 2010 at http://www.jstor.org/stable/4134715.
- Ferreras, P., M. Delibes, . Palomares, . Fedriani, J. Calzada, E. Revilla. 2004. Proximate and Ultimate Causes of dispersal in the Iberian Lynx Lynx Pardinus. Behavioral Ecology, Volume 15/ Issue 1: 31-40. Accessed August 05, 2010 at http://beheco.oxfordjournals.org.
- Palomares, F., M. Delibes, N. Fernandez. 2002. The use of breeding dens and kitten development in the Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus). Journal of Zoology, London, No. 258: 1-5.
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
After six decades of decline and pronounced range contraction, between 2002 and 2012 population size of the Iberian Lynx has continuously increased to 156 mature individuals in the two remaining wild subpopulations (Simn et al. 2012). Likewise the area of occupancy experienced a three-fold increase to reach 1,040 km2. One subpopulation contains 68% of all mature individuals. Twelve mature individuals survive in two additional localities where reintroductions are currently under way (Simn et al. 2012). As a result of the increasing population size, the Iberian Lynx no longer qualifies for Critically Endangered status and is therefore listed as Endangered under criterion D. The improved status of this species is all due to intensive ongoing conservation actions.
Detailed demographic projections suggest that future range expansion and population increase depend upon continued reintroductions. In the absence of reintroductions, a marked decline would quickly re-occur and extinction is predicted to occur within 35 years (Fordham et al. 2013). Major future threats include uncertainty about the identity and intensity of environmental drivers on lynx prey in regions where conservation efforts are currently concentrated, and uncertainty about the suitability of these regions for lynx under future climate change (Fordham et al. 2013).
- 2008Critically Endangered (CR)
- 2006Critically Endangered (CR)
- 2002Critically Endangered (CR)
- 1996Endangered (EN)
- 1994Endangered (E)
- 1990Endangered (E)
- 1988Endangered (E)
- 1986Endangered (E)
- 1965Very rare and believed to be decreasing in numbers
Iberian lynx are the most endangered felids in the world and the most threatened carnivore in Europe. With fewer than 250 breeding individuals in the wild in 1996, Iberian lynx are considered critically endangered by the IUCN. They have undergone significant population decline and range contraction for the last century and a half, primarily due to anthropogenic causes and disease outbreaks in European rabbits, resulting in significant decreases in their primary prey. Their preservation requires immediate action, and their successful restoration likely requires a coordinated effort by Spanish and Portuguese conservation authorities. To date, captive breeding programs for Iberian lynx have not been thoroughly investigated, but could prove to be a viable method of recovery.
Habitat fragmentation throughout the Iberian Peninsula has lead to the isolation of lynx populations, thus impeding their ability to disperse. The inability to disperse can lead to an increased risk of inbreeding and reduced genetic diversity, making small populations more vulnerable to extirpation. Causes of habitat fragmentation include agriculture, urban development, road construction, flooding, pollution, and forest fires. Habitat fragmentation exacerbates the challenge of interpopulation dispersal by eliminating habitat corridors. Dispersal plays an important role in the life cycle of Iberian lynx, and although it is inherently high risk, the greatest causes of mortality during dispersal are human induced. In addition to protecting current corridors, restoring interpopulation connectivity is critical to the recovery of Iberian lynx.
Iberian lynx have long been exploited by humans, and despite being protected in Spain since 1973 and in Portugal since 1974, poaching still occurs. The impacts of poaching are hard to determine, however, because such activities are kept secret. One report estimated that 5% of annual mortality is caused by poaching. In Portugal, the leading cause of human induced mortality is poaching during hunting events. Kill traps, which accounted for 44% of deaths in the 1980’s and 6% in more recent years, are the primary cause of human induced mortality in Spain.
US Federal List: endangered
CITES: appendix i
State of Michigan List: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: critically endangered
Date Listed: 06/02/1970
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10)
Where Listed: Entire
Population location: Entire
Listing status: E
For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Lynx pardinus, see its USFWS Species Profile
Homogenization of mosaic cultural landscapes due to agricultural and silvicultural intensification during the 20th century conceivably contributed to lynx decline (Rodrguez and Delibes 2002, Ferreras et al. 2010). Continued trends of abandonment of marginal livestock farming and loss of small game, sometimes followed by afforestation, further reduce the amount of potentially suitable habitat for reintroduction. Without viable land uses, maintaining suitable mosaic landscapes for the Iberian Lynx would require enduring and expensive intensive management (Rodrguez 2013). Even in landscapes with suitable structure and subject to intensive conservation management, rabbit abundance exhibits large temporal variability closely tracked by the probability of lynx breeding (Palomares et al. 2001, Fernndez et al. 2007, Iberlince LIFE project undated).
Effective population size does not exceed 25 for each isolated subpopulation (Casas-Marc et al. 2013), announcing further losses of genetic diversity and accumulation of inbreeding through genetic drift. Indeed, persistent small population size over lynx generations, especially in the lowlands of the Doana region, have produced signs of both demographic and genetic deterioration, including biased sex-ratios, decreased age of territory acquisition and litter size, and increased mortality due to disease and other natural causes (Palomares et al. 2012). Lowered demographic and genetic performance could positively interact in the form of an extinction vortex (Palomares et al. 2012).
As a manifestation of global change, human-assisted spread of virulent diseases affecting European Rabbits had catastrophic effects on Iberian Lynx populations in the past (Ferreras et al. 2010). Although rabbits could eventually develop resistance, viral diseases remain a recurrent threat as the arrival of new strains may cause again a lasting depression of food availability for the Iberian Lynx. Moreover, the prevalent rabbit lineage in southwestern Iberia, where rabbit restocking and other conservation measures take place, might be more vulnerable to rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) than the northeastern lineage (Real et al. 2009). For example, a new RHD strain has been blamed for an annual 62% decrease in productivity (average number of kittens per territorial female) in Andjar-Cardea subpopulation (Iberlince LIFE project, undated). Likewise, diseases affecting felids also spread, sometimes with the help of uncontrolled pets that become feral or visit lynx areas from nearby towns. For example, in 2007 a feline leukaemia outbreak killed a substantial fraction of lynx in Doana (Lpez et al. 2009, Palomares et al. 2011a). Finally, detailed models combining ecological niche and metapopulation dynamics show that, without intensive intervention, climate change will rapidly decrease lynx populations and would probably lead to Iberian Lynx to extinction within 35 years (Fordham et al. 2013).
The main goal of habitat management is increasing prey density. Food management includes supplementation of rabbits within enclosures and boosting wild rabbit populations. Attempts to augment rabbit numbers are carried out basically through restocking in or out predator-proof enclosures, but also acquiring rabbit hunting rights or enhancing pastures and refuge for wild rabbits. Other important resources for lynx that may be in short supply in some localities, such as cavities usable as breeding dens or artificial water spots, are provided. Management is applied to sites where suboptimal habitat quality may preclude settlement of subadults born nearby.
Although hunting or trapping might not be as important a mortality factor as it was in the past, lynx areas are regularly monitored for illegal traps. Measures for traffic calming and some crossing facilities have been implemented especially in road black spots. Awareness campaigns systematically performed in and around lynx areas as well as in reintroduction sites warn about the drastic effects of poaching on small populations, and informs on the conservation benefits and ecosystems services associated with Iberian Lynx preservation. Parallel education programmes target schools and the general public, which may be also engaged as volunteers.
Several NGOs and public administrations acquire rights on specific land uses, or help landowners to maintain their properties compatible with the conservation of the Iberian Lynx by compensating economic losses in which owners incur as a result of conservation action.
Some adult lynx have been translocated in order to alleviate the effects of inbreeding in the Doana subpopulation. Additional wild individuals have been translocated some 30 km away as founders of two ongoing reintroduction attempts in Sierra Morena. A few captive-born individuals have also been used in reintroductions, after the first births of the captive-breeding programme took place in 2005 (Vargas et al. 2009). To date the ex situ conservation programme for the Iberian Lynx have produced over 270 individuals, and as the captive population has been built, captive-born animals are expected to be regularly used for reintroduction (Iberian Lynx Ex-situ Conservation Programme 2014). Recent models show that, to be effective, reintroductions should take into account the joint effects of climate change, prey abundance and habitat connectivity (Fordham et al. 2013).
The Iberian Lynx is fully protected in Spain and Portugal, listed on CITES Appendix I, and on Appendix II of the Bern Convention, and Annexes II* and IV of the EU Habitats and Species Directive.
Two main avenues can be envisaged for lynx conservation, namely consolidation of existing populations and recolonization, either natural or assisted.
Continued intensive management, mainly in the form of habitat enhancement and increased prey density (Ferreras et al. 2010, Simn et al. 2012), has been suggested to resist the progressive effects of an extinction vortex whose symptoms can be noted at least in the Doana population (Palomares et al. 2012). Other components of intensive management include reduction of mortality rates from road casualties or game management (Rodrguez and Delibes 2004), and prevention of disease outbreaks transmitted by domestic animals or wildlife reservoirs (Milln et al. 2009).
Natural recolonization requires increasing the chances for floaters to survive and establish in large areas surrounding occupied nuclei (Rodrguez and Delibes 2003, Palomares et al. 2011b, Rodrguez et al. 2012). These areas may be too large for intensive species-based management to be an option, but a shift to area-based, softer management could be considered. Such management could include tax incentives for small game management, reduced transportation, industrial or urban developments, enforcement of regulations on predator control, and awareness campaigns directed to local people.
Regarding assisted recolonization, so far wild lynx made the bulk of founders for reintroduced populations. Continued extraction of wild lynx might not be sustainable in the long term if consolidation of existing nuclei is aimed and if extractions reduce the chances of natural colonization by surplus dispersing lynx. Individuals produced by the captive breeding programme may progressively increase their proportion in the groups of founders. This may be accompanied by an improvement of the performance (survival and eventually reproduction) of released captive-bred individuals, perhaps by raising them in semi-natural conditions. Design of the genetic composition of founders should alleviate the markedly low genetic diversity of wild populations (Casas-Marc et al. 2013). Adaptive selection of new reintroduction sites should also consider both present and forecast ecological suitability (Fordham et al. 2013).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Due to the surplus of agricultural goods produced by the European Union, there has been a shift in land management practices. Large portions of potential Iberian lynx habitat, previously deemed unproductive, have been converted to timber stands by reforestation projects or have been set aside for use by the lumber industry. If Iberian lynx recovery efforts require that forestry lands be converted to habitat reserves, the timber industry will likely experience significant economic losses. Iberian lynx pose little threat to agriculture or the small game industry. Attacks against livestock are very rare, and no violent attacks against humans have been recorded.
Iberian lynx were once considered pests and were believed to have a significant negative impact on the small game industry. As a result, the Spanish government awarded bounties for their carcasses, and when they were more abundant they were hunted for their fur. However, decreased lynx abundance likely hurt the small game industry by increasing the prevalence of myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease, two diseases that negatively affect European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus).
Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material; controls pest population
The Iberian lynx, (Lynx pardinus), is a critically endangered species of felid native to the Iberian Peninsula in Southern Europe. It is one of the most endangered cat species in the world. According to the conservation group SOS Lynx, if the Iberian lynx died out, it would be the first feline species to become extinct since prehistoric times. The species was formerly classified as a subspecies of the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), but is now considered a separate species. Both species occurred together in central Europe in the Pleistocene epoch, being separated by habitat choice. The Iberian lynx is believed to have evolved from Lynx issiodorensis.
In most respects, the Iberian lynx resembles other species of lynx, with a short tail, tufted ears and a ruff of fur beneath the chin. While the Eurasian lynx bears rather pallid markings, the Iberian lynx has distinctive, leopard-like spots with a coat that is often light grey or various shades of light brownish-yellow. The coat is also noticeably shorter than in other lynxes, which are typically adapted to colder environments. Some western populations were spotless, although these have recently[when?] become extinct.
The head and body length is 85 to 110 centimetres (33 to 43 in), with the short tail an additional 12 to 30 centimetres (4.7 to 12 in); the shoulder height is 60 to 70 centimetres (24 to 28 in). The male is larger than the female, with the average weight of males 12.9 kilograms (28 lb) and a maximum of 26.8 kilograms (59 lb), compared to an average of 9.4 kilograms (21 lb) for females; this is about half the size of the Eurasian lynx.
The Iberian lynx is smaller than its northern relatives, and typically hunts smaller animals, usually no larger than hares. It also differs in habitat choice, with Iberian lynx inhabiting open scrub and Eurasian lynx inhabiting forests.
It hunts mammals (including rodents and insectivores), birds, reptiles and amphibians at twilight. The European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is its main prey (79.5-86.7%), with (5.9%) hares (Lepus granatensis) and rodents (3.2%) less common. A male requires one rabbit per day; a female bringing up cubs will eat three rabbits per day.
As the population of rabbits in Spain and Portugal has declined due to myxomatosis, the Iberian lynx is often forced to attack young fallow deer, roe deer, mouflon, and ducks. The Iberian lynx competes for prey with the red fox, the Egyptian mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon) and the wildcat. It is solitary and hunts alone; it will stalk its prey or lie in wait for hours behind a bush or rock until the prey is sufficiently close to pounce in a few strides.
A lynx, especially with younger animals, will roam widely, with ranges reaching more than 100 kilometres (62 mi). Its territory (~ 10 to 20 square kilometres (3.9 to 7.7 sq mi)) is also dependent on how much food is available. Nonetheless, once established, ranges tend to be stable in size over many years, the boundaries often being along man-made roads and trails. The Iberian lynx marks its territory with its urine, droppings left in existing tracks through the vegetation, and scratch marks on the barks of trees.
During the mating season the female leaves her territory in search of a male. The typical gestation period is about two months; the cubs are born between March and September, with a peak of births in March and April. A litter consists of two or three (rarely one, four or five) kittens weighing between 200 and 250 grams (7.1 and 8.8 oz).
The kittens become independent at 7 to 10 months old, but remain with the mother until around 20 months old. Survival of the young depends heavily on the availability of prey species. In the wild, both males and females reach sexual maturity at one year old, though in practice they rarely breed until a territory becomes vacant; one female was known not to breed until five years old when its mother died. The maximum longevity in the wild is 13 years.
Siblings become violent towards one another between 30 and 60 days, peaking at 45 days. A cub will frequently kill its littermate in a brutal fight. It is unknown why these episodes of aggression occur, though many scientists believe it is related to a change in hormones when a cub switches from its mother's milk to meat. Others believe it is related to hierarchy, and "survival of the fittest." No matter the reason, conservationists must separate the kittens until the 60 day period is reached.
This lynx was distributed over the entire Iberian Peninsula as recently as the mid-19th century. It is now restricted to very limited areas of southern Spain, with breeding only confirmed in two areas of Andalucía. The Iberian lynx prefers heterogeneous environments of open grassland mixed with dense shrubs such as strawberry tree, mastic, and juniper, and trees such as holm oak and cork oak. It is now largely restricted to mountainous areas, with only a few groups found in lowland forest or dense maquis shrubland.
Studies conducted in March 2005 estimated the number of surviving Iberian lynx to be as few as 100, down from about 400 in 2000 and down from 4,000 in 1960. If the Iberian lynx were to become extinct, it would be the first big cat species to do so since Smilodon populator 10,000 years ago.
The only breeding populations are in Spain, and were thought to be only living in the Doñana National Park and in the Sierra de Andújar, Jaén. However, in 2007, Spanish authorities announced that they had discovered a previously unknown population in Castile-La Mancha (central Spain). It was later announced that there were around 15 individuals there.
The Iberian lynx and its habitat are fully protected, and they are no longer legally hunted. Its critical status is mainly due to habitat loss, poisoning, road casualties, feral dogs and poaching. Its habitat loss is due mainly to infrastructure improvement, urban and resort development and tree monocultivation, which serves to break the lynx's distribution area. In addition, the lynx prey population of rabbits is also declining due to diseases such as myxomatosis and hemorrhagic pneumonia.
In 2008, the Doñana population was assessed at 24 to 33, with an estimated 60 to 110 adults in the Sierra Morena, which is the stronghold of the species. The total population is estimated to be 99 to 158 adults, including the newly discovered La Mancha population, and the Iberian lynx qualifies as Critically Endangered under C2a(i) on the IUCN Redlist.
To reduce the risk of having only two core populations, the conservation community wants to reintroduce animals to other parts of Spain and Portugal. The Campanarios de Azaba area near Salamanca will be the first location and reintroduction is being discussed with the Ministry of Environment.
Recent successful breeding programs have given renewed hope to survival of this species.
- On March 29, 2005, Saliega, the first Iberian lynx to breed in captivity, gave birth to three healthy kittens at the El Acebuche Breeding Center, in the Doñana Nature Park in Huelva, Spain. On March 22, 2008, Saliega gave birth to three more kittens at the El Acebuche centre. These kits were born at 64 days gestation. One of the young was rejected by the mother, and the Junta de Andalucía's Environment Department reported on March 24 that the rejected kitten had died.
- In the Sierra Morena area just north of Andújar, Andalucía, there were 150 Iberian lynx individuals overall in 2008, up from 60 in 2002. As a result of this increase, the lynx area in Andújar-Cardeña has probably reached its carrying capacity, and thus could provide animals for future reintroductions elsewhere. In addition to these on-site conservation achievements in the Sierra Morena, the off-site conservation captive breeding program has also progressed well, totaling 52 individuals, 24 of which were bred in captivity. The off-site conservation population will provide 20 to 40 individuals per year for reintroductions beginning in 2010.
- In Doñana National Park, the lynx population seems to have remained steady in recent years, with around 50 individuals reported in total each year between 2002 and 2008. In March 2009, the birth of three more kittens was announced; they were born as part of the breeding program at Doñana National Park, in Huelva. The Iberian Lynx is planned to be reintroduced into Guadalmellato beginning in 2009, and into Guarrizas sometime in 2010 - 11.
- During the 2010/2011 season, there were 45 kittens born in breeding centers, of which 26 survived. In 2011/2012, breeding centers in Portugal and Spain reported a total of 59 births with 44 surviving kittens.
- von Arx, M. & Breitenmoser-Wursten, C (2008). Lynx pardinus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 22 March 2009. (Database entry includes justification for why this species is critically endangered)
- Ward, Dan (December 2008). "LynxBrief". http://www.iberianature.com/material/documents/LynxBrief12E.pdf. Retrieved July 2011.
- Gonçalves, Eduardo (April 2002). "Captured cubs hold future of Europe's tiger". London: The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/apr/21/highereducation.biologicalscience. Retrieved July 2011.
- "Iberian lynx Lynx pardinus". IUCN Cat Specialist Group. http://lynx.uio.no/jon/lynx/lynxib01.htm.
- Kurtén, Björn (1968). Pleistocene Mammals of Europe.
- Sunquist, Mel; Sunquist, Fiona (2002). Wild cats of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 177–184. ISBN 0-226-77999-8.
- "Iberian lynx Lynx pardinus". United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre. http://www.unep-wcmc.org/species/data/species_sheets/iberlynx.htm.
- "Lynx pardinus". Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Lynx_pardinus.html.
- Ward, Dan (2004). "The Iberian Lynx Emergency" (PDF). http://www.lcie.org/Docs/Iberian%20lynx/Ward%20REP%20The%20Iberian%20lynx%20emergency.pdf. Retrieved 2007-05-13.
- Hogan, C. Michael (2011). "Alboran Sea. eds. P.Saundry & C.J.Cleveland. Encyclopedia of Earth.". Washington DC: National Council for Science and the Environment.. http://www.eoearth.org/article/Alboran_Sea?topic=49523.
- "EU 'put Portugal wildlife under threat'". BBC News. 8 April 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6530743.stm. Retrieved 2007-04-10.
- "Iberian lynx in 'gravest danger'". BBC News. 10 March 2005. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4336071.stm. Retrieved 2007-04-10.
- "SOSLynx.org". http://www.soslynx.org/. Retrieved July 2011.
- "New Population Of Iberian Lynx Raises Hope For Species' Survival". Science News. October 2007. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071023163901.htm. Retrieved July 2011.
- Mitchell-Jones, et al. (1999). The Atlas of European Mammals.
- "Wildlife returns to Western Iberia". Rewilding Europe. 2012-05-08. http://rewildingeurope.com/news/articles/wildlife-returns-to-western-iberia/.
- "Hopes raised by Spain lynx births". BBC News. 2005-03-30. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4394005.stm. Retrieved 2012-09-05.
- http://www.wildfelids.org/wild_cats_in_the_news[dead link]
- "Endangered Iberian lynx cubs born in Spain". Associated Press. March 20, 2009. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20090320/eu-spain-lynx-cubs/. Retrieved July 2011.
- "Nacen 59 ejemplares de lince esta temporada en el Programa de Cría en Cautividad [59 lynx kittens born this season as part of the Captive Breeding Program]" (in Spanish). Europa Press. 17 June 2012. http://www.europapress.es/sociedad/medio-ambiente-00647/noticia-nacen-59-ejemplares-lince-temporada-programa-cria-cautividad-20120617133403.html. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- "Success in Silves as seven lynx cubs are born". The Portugal News. 31 March 2012. http://www.theportugalnews.com/cgi-bin/article.pl?id=1158-33. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- Pettifer, Julian (May 25, 2005). "Algarve United and the Iberian lynx". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/4579015.stm. Retrieved July 2011.
- Lisbon, Eduardo Gonçalves (March 31, 2002). "Last of the lynx facing oblivion in virus crisis". London: The Observer. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/mar/31/highereducation.biologicalscience. Retrieved July 2011.
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