It is one of the most endangered cat species in the world. According to the conservation group SOS Lynx, if this species died out, it would be one of the few feline extinctions since the Smilodon 10,000 years ago. The species used to be 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.
Closeup of the Iberian lynx
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 become extinct.
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.
Specimen in the Doñana National Park
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 seven 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.