The best place to see wolves in Spain is in the rolling hills of the Sierra de la Culebra.

Iberian Wolf (Canis lupus signatus) Lobo Ibérico

  • Spanish: Lobo
  • Catalan: Llop

The Iberian wolf, Canis Lupus, has suffered much persecution over the centuries. Already being eradicated from many countries and, despite a bounty on every head of a wolf during the 1950’s and 60’s. Some small populations of these mammals survived and now receive a partial protection especially when they reside in protected (natural and national park) areas of Spain. (A hunting ban came into force in 2021)

Read about the recent hunting ban of the Iberian wolf over at the Iberia Nature Forum: Feel free to join in with the topics there! 🙂

Iberian wolf populations are mainly in scattered packs in the forests and plains of north-western Spain, the Sierra Morena in Andalusia (current numbers unknown and could be zero?) and the north of Portugal also holds small numbers.

The Iberian wolf can reach a height of around 70cm and length of 120cm. The animal is different in colour from the Eurasian wolf by having dark markings on its forelegs, back and tail with white markings on its upper lips. This is the reason for the last part of the scientific name, with signatus meaning “marked”. Males weigh around 40kg with females being of a finer / slimmer build.

A few details about the Iberian wolf
  • The Iberian wolf lives in small packs and is considered to be a beneficial habitat species because it holds local populations of wild boars and other species in a stable, and efficient number.
  • They also prey on rabbits, roe deer, red deer, ibex and even small carnivores such as fox and every now and then fish.
  • The diet depends greatly on the habitat in which they are living and occasionally they will take domestic stock animals, this is the cause of some current problematic persecution.
  • The Iberian wolf population in Iberia is probably around 2,500 individuals being members of 350 packs. (Census from 2016)
  • Numbers seem to be increasing due to the full hunting ban brought into force in 2021.
  • A female can begin breeding at one year old but does not reach full maturity until 5 years. The average litter of pups is between 5 and 6. These pups can be preyed upon by Eagle owls and Golden eagles in their first weeks.
Where to see the Iberian Wolf in Spain?

The best place to see wolves in Spain is in the rolling hills of the Sierra de la Culebra. This quite large region bordering with Portugal is characterized by open heather valleys and thick pine plantations. Although it is not a natural or national park (in fact is one of the largest hunting reserves in Spain) it is absolutely teeming with wildlife.

other regions of Spain with wolves are the remote mountains of Asturias, Cantabria and Castilla y Leon.

Stunning scenery and the chance to see both Iberian wolves and brown bears. Check out Picos Rock and Snow for more information.e/

Centro de Recepción de Visitantes del Lobo.

There is an Iberian wolf visitor center in the town of La Garganta (Valle del Ambroz, north of the province of Cáceres). Address: C/Hernan cortes,32 10759 La Garganta. The CRV El Lobo has 3 floors equipped with a projection room, impressive photographs, sculptures, information panels and objects related to the world of the wolf including its anatomy, habits, diet, myths and its relationship with humans.

Centro del lobo Ibérico Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente

Located in the village of Robledo (Puebla de Sanabria) in the province of Zamora at the far north of Castilla y León. This relatively new (2015) wolf interpretation centre should be high on your list of places to visit if you are interested in the Iberian wolf. In fact as it is located in the Sierra de Culebra there is also a good chance that you might even see a wild Iberian wolf.

Wolf giving birth video

The visit begins at the entrance of the center with a series of informative panels that explain data about the biology, habitat, and customs of this mysterious animal. Once inside, you access the 1,800-square-meter building, integrated into the environment itself, built in an ecological and efficient manner, evoking heritage elements associated with the wolf and simulating the so-called “cortello” of wolves.

The space has several rooms where items such as skins, skulls, and various objects used in the research of the species are exhibited. These can be discovered through a guided tour with the team that personally takes care of the wolves in the Center.

It is a journey through the discovery of the species in the territory where they inhabit, which is also interactive since local, manipulable, and accessible materials are used for visitors during the visit. The team at the center aims to provide a multifaceted view of the wolf and its relationship with humans in the Sierra de la Culebra, including the controversy surrounding population control, as well as aspects of the animal’s biology, archaeology, folklore, history, ecology, and natural conservation.

But the wolf adventure does not end here. This refuge offers not only the opportunity to learn more about this species but also to see them live and up close, in their own habitat and very close to them. The center has wooden pedestrian walkways, adapted for the transit of people with disabilities, leading to three elevated observatories that allow for observing the animals without altering their natural behavioral patterns.

One of the most exciting moments of the visit is when the center’s team attracts these specimens towards the public with pieces of meat, so that visitors can see them up close and observe how they interact with each other within their social hierarchy.

Website in Spanish here:

Find a hotel in wolf country.
Protected species or hunted species?

Hunting and shooting wolves is permitted with a license in some areas of Spain with a high price being paid by the hunter for the trophy (stuffed head). However, at the same time, the law must guarantee the conservation of stable family groups. In a contradictory move, in 2016, the regional government of Asturias ordered the killing of more than 60 wolves: a large part of them in Biosphere Reserves declared by UNESCO , without any previous study to justify whether the wolves were overpopulated or causing any damage to the local livestock or economy.

It is a fact that the uncontrolled and indiscriminate killing of wolves destroys family groups and breaks the packs social structure. The consequences are very damaging and without the pack, lone wolves have no chance of hunting wild animals and so they will (and do) attack domestic livestock with greater intensity, increasing peoples mistrust and fear of this top level Iberian predator.

Wolf hunting ban 2021.

After almost becoming extinct in Iberia in recent times, The Spanish government announced in early 2021 that there will soon be a complete ban on wolf hunting in Spain. (“In the next few days we will add the wolf to the list of protected species,” said Environment Minister Teresa Ribera).

Of great satisfaction to all the environmental action groups and good news for the Iberian wolf but this decision has enraged the leaders of the Spanish hunting federation and its many members plus a lot of farming landowners whos livestock lives with the wolf populations.

Read more here:

Read more about the European Wolf, Canis Lupus on the website of FAPAS
Read more about the European Wolf, Canis Lupus on the website of FAPAS

FAPAS has been platforming for many years for the government of Spain to once again allow the placement of carcasses from domestic livestock into wolf, bear and vulture areas. This would of course recover a source of food for iberian carrion wildlife that has depended on it for many years. Since the outbreak of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease), the EU brought in laws enforcing the removal of carcasses from the countryside. This had led to a drastic shortage of carrion for the more well-known carrion eaters such as Griffon vultures and Red kites and has affected both wolves and bears in a similar way.

Read more about the European Wolf, Canis Lupus on the website of FAPAS

The wikipedia article about the Iberian wolf is also interesting

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