The Iberian lynx (lynx pardinus) was formerly found throughout Spain and Portugal. Although it began to decline in the first half of the 20th century, the decline accelerated after the 1950’s due to the spread of myxomatosis, a disease which decimated populations of the European rabbit, the lynx’s main prey.
Other factors in the lynx’s decline include habitat loss, illegal hunting, accidental killing by snares and poison baits set for other animals, and roadkill. By 2000 it was considered to exist in a heavily fragmented population in which only two groups large enough to have long-term prospects of survival.
Already extinct in Portugal, there are perhaps 100 – 150 lynx remaining and it is now considered the most critically endangered cat species in the world.
The Iberian lynx is to be found in woodland or dense scrub and open pasture where it feeds mainly on rabbits. It is predominantly nocturnal and is an excellent tree climber. It uses a variety of locations for breeding lairs, including old stork nests as much as 12 metres above the ground.
They are rapacious cats, but you are unlikely to encounter one unless you take up mountain walking as a profession. Even then, they are more likely to avoid human contact.
Size and Weight: Length: 85 – 110 cm (34 – 43″); Average weight: 9.3 kg (20.5 lb) (female), 12.8 kg (28.2 lb) (male)
Habitat: Woodland or dense scrub for shelter during the day and open pasture for hunting rabbits. It is found mainly between 400 – 900 m (1300 – 3000′) but occurs up to 1600 m (5200′).
Maturity: A female Iberian lynx can breed in her first year, but will do so only if there is an available territory for her to occupy.
Gestation Period: Approximately 2 months.
Birth Season: March – September, with a peak during March – April.
Birth Rate: No more than 1 litter per year; 2 – 4 young per litter
Dispersal: Young Iberian lynx stay with their mother until she mates again in the winter. They then remain in her territory an average of 20 months before dispersing a distance of up to 30 km (19 mi).
Maximum Reproductive Age: 10 years (female & male).
Maximum Age: Up to 13 years.
Diet: The Iberian lynx eats European rabbits almost exclusively (93% of prey by weight during the summer), with approximately one rabbit per day needed to fulfill energy requirements. When rabbits are less available, red deer fawns, fallow deer, juvenile mouflon and ducks are eaten.
Behaviour: The Iberian lynx is predominantly nocturnal. It is an excellent tree climber. Daily travel distance averages about 7 km (4.3 mi).
A variety of locations are used for breeding lairs, including cavities under thorn thickets where twigs and grass are used to build nests, burrows, hollow trees, and even old stork nests high off of the ground.
Captured prey is usually carried or dragged a considerable distance before being eaten, and the remains are buried.
Social Organization: Home ranges of males do not overlap. Home ranges of females are generally exclusive, but may overlap somewhat. Male ranges overlap one or more female ranges.