- Spanish: Lobo
- Catalan: Llop
The Iberian wolf, Canis Lupus, has suffered much persecution over 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) area of Spain.
Iberian wolf populations are mainly in scattered packs in the forests and plains of north-western Spain, the Sierra Morena in Andalusia 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.
The Iberian wolf lives in small packs and It 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 2,000 individuals being members of 350 packs. (Census from 2016)
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.
Stunning scenery and the chance to see both Iberian wolves and brown bears. Check out Picos Rock and Snow for more information.
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.
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 is interesting
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