The European Lynx -Lynx lynx

The Iberian Lynx – Lynx Pardinus

The Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus) once roamed over most of Spain but has recently had the unfortunate label of the world’s most endangered feline. Numbers began falling at the start of the 20th century but in the last few decades numbers have fallen dramatically from an estimated 1100 in 1988 to just 120 in 2005.

The Iberian Lynx - Lynx Pardinus

The European lynx – Lynx lynx

Instantly recognisable with tufty ears, long sideburns and beautiful spotted coat the Iberian Lynx is about two feet tall and three feet long. Adults weigh around 25 pounds.
Iberian Lynx used to be seen regularly in the Pyrenees – often in the more Mediterranean climate of the Sierra de Guara. It is thought that they shared the range with European Lynx (Lynx lynx)  which are found in the Alps and further north. Sadly the last sightings in the Aragonese Pyrenees were in 1930 in Linás de Marcuello near the cliffs of Riglos and 1940 near Berdún – both animals were killed by hunters.
The main cause for decline in the Pyrenees was thought to be hunting but elsewhere the recent drop in numbers has been put down to a reduction in rabbits which is the mainstay of the lynx’s diet along with with the large number of road, rail and dam projects which have taken place since Spain joined the European Union. These have disrupted Lynx, destroying their habitat and separating populations into smaller and smaller unsustainable groups.

One place you can see lynx is at Parque Faunistico in the Valle de Tena. There are several European Lynx in a large enclosure and since beginning their Lynx breeding program, the park have a litter of  young cubs born most springs. They’re quite hard to spot but it’s a magical sight if you are lucky enough to see those fluffy ears pointing up out of the grass.
Today only two populations of Iberian Lynx remain both in the south of Spain. A group of around 20-25  lives in Doñana National Park but this number is thought not to be genetically diverse enough to survive. Another larger population of around 70 lynx are in the Sierra de Andújar are thought to have a more sustainable future.

The European Lynx -Lynx lynx

The European Lynx -Lynx lynx in the Parque Faunistico in the Valle de Tena

In 2003  the Lynx Life program has been set up and is having some success so much so there is even talk of moving the lynx status from ‘critically endangered’ to just ‘endangered’ which still isn’t great but is a move in the right direction. Lynx Life has several strategies including boosting rabbit populations where Lynx are present. Young pairs of Lynx have been trapped and introduced to new areas of wild land that had been specially prepared to be provide the perfect habitat for both rabbits and lynx. A breeding program has been set up with the idea to take young animals bred in captivity and release them into the Doñana population to increase genetic diversity. These measures have increased the population to an estimated 300 individuals so fingers crossed the Iberian Lynx can come back from the brink.

8 thoughts on “The Iberian Lynx – Lynx Pardinus”

  1. did I see a Lynx in the Garottxa Forest Natural Park ? Last week, think it was 10th March, driving back home late at night thru the forest, about a mile outside village of Besalu, its flashed across road. Dicussed it with local farmer who’s had similar sightings. More leggy than local feral and wild cats, quite pale in colour and despite its speed appeared to run with head up position, very different stride to cats, bounding in much longer stride. Can’t see why they would not survive in Garottxa, miles of virgin forest full of rabbits, boar etc.

  2. Hi Bryan,
    Thanks for posting news of your exciting sighting on our blog. Garrotxa certainly has perfect terrain for lynx and it certainly had lynx in the past. They would have probably been European lynx rather than the rarer Iberian lynx. Sadly, the lynx (along with the wolves) in Garrotxa were hunted to extinction in the area as they were in all of the Pyrenees. As far as I’m aware there aren’t lynx in Garrotxa, however, there are always projects that talk about re-introducing lynx in several areas. It is easily possible that lynx could have been re-introduced there without me knowing. These projects tend to be kept quite secret to avoid attracting hunters, opposition from local farmers and also to give the animals some respite from nature lovers eager to spot them!
    I’m going to dig into this a bit more and if I come with anything I’ll post it on here.

  3. Saw what we believe to be a Lynx on 29 September 2019 at 10.00 am running across road in front of our car at road from Lladurs to Hostal de la Citera north of C28 Rio Salada in Catalonia. Much longer than a cat. It shot accross the road in front of car in a country area.

  4. Hi Alex,
    Nice sighting although I’m afraid I think it’s very unlikely to be a lynx. They are considered to be extinct in the wild in the Catalan Pyrenees. The last definite sighting of a lynx in the Catalan Pyrenees was in the 1930s in the Valle de Ribes, although it’s possible that a few examples remained until the end of the century.

    If it was bigger than a cat then it could be a wild cat, which are bigger than a domestic cat although bigger all over rather than just longer. Another option could be a genet – these are quite long and sleek but have distinctive black and white markings that make it very easy to identify. The other option could be a pine marten – these aren’t big but are long. They are much more common than either wild cats or genets which are both quite rare.

    Sorry I couldn’t be more definitive! The lynx are so secretive that you never know! It would be wonderful to see them once again in the Pyrenees,

  5. Not sure you still get these postings – wondered if there are any developments in the Lynx sightings?
    My friend is pretty sure she saw a Lynx in the wooded upper reaches of the Val d’Azun two evenings ago.

  6. Hi I have a small farm in Tarragona province of Catalunya, the nearest town is called Gandesa. In January 2010 we were hit by a massive snowfall, on walking through my neighbours field on the way back to the fInca I saw a long line of foot prints on the top of the snow . I was amazed that the dogs paws hadn’t gone through the snow , after a closer inspection I realized that they were not from a canine but obviously a medium sized cat , the prints were far bigger than any dog anyway which just leaves a small/medium sized feline .
    I am sure it was a lynx that left the paw prints, I have never seen one in the wild but the Terra Alta region is probably the perfect place for them

  7. Hi Martin,
    Great spot, I know Gandesa, we run holidays based out of Beceite sometimes – it’s a beautiful and wild area. It’s difficult to tell what the prints would be without seeing them but I do agree the area would be perfect for lynx. However, the guide we work with in that area, is a real nature lover and he’s never mentioned lynx in the area to me before – but that’s not to say they don’t exist! If it was a lynx it would be the European lynx rather than the Iberian. Other suspects could be a wildcat, genet (perfect terrain for those in your area), fox or a marten (although marten prints are quite small). A big point of difference in the tracks is if there are claws showing – wild cats and lynx shouldn’t show claws, where as a fox and martens do. Fox and lynx tracks would be a similar size but are quite different in the pattern of the pads – Fox is more like a dog, while a lynx has a large rear pad, with 4 forward facing pads looking like toes. A wolf called also be an option – I’m not sure if any have been sighted in your area but they are being sighted more often and more widely in Spain these days.
    Keep an eye out and hope for a great lynx sighting – let us know if you do see one – that would be amazing!
    Hope that info’s useful, Phil

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