Facts About The Iberian wolf

The Iberian wolf

The gray wolf subspecies, known as the Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus), was first identified in 1907 by the Spanish zoologist Ángel Cabrera. The genetic work carried out by the biologist Robert Wayne of UCLA, has allowed us to suggest that it is a true subspecies within the genus.

Spain is one of the last refuges of the Iberian wolves in the European Union. The population of the Iberian wolf is recovering slowly from the losses caused in the 1970s, approximately 400-500 individuals remained, reaching today (2003) to 2000-3000, almost 30% of the European wolves.

Distribution of the Iberian wolf

It is said that this animal is distinguished by black markings along its tail, on its back, and on its front legs. More than 50% of these animals are found in the north of Castilla y León (approximately 1000-1,500 Iberian wolves), and less than 35% in Galicia (approximately 500-700 Iberian wolves), and the highest population density is found in the northeast of Zamora (5-7 wolves / 100km 2 ).

Once wolves were present throughout the Iberian Peninsula, but now they are exiled to the Northeast (Asturias, León, Norte de Castilla, Galicia), and some populations are in the Sierra Morena (Jaén and Cuenca). However, recently, they have managed to cross the barrier again, what is now the Douro River and have begun to extend south and east: two groups have been detected near Guadalajara and have begun to move in Teruel, in the south of Aragón.

In general the Iberian wolf in Spain is no longer considered in danger of extinction, the most vulnerable are those in the Sierra Morena that if they are in danger of extinction, these wolves live on private hunting farms, where they are illegally persecuted, that conflict with the hunting practices of millionaires.

Iberian Wolf Anatomy 

Iberian wolves are of a medium size, with a constitution generally thinner than the Eurasian wolf. The males can weigh up to 40 kg (90 pounds), and the females usually have between 75 or 80 percent of the size of the males.

Its fur can vary in colors from a light gray or ocher in the summer months to a dark reddish brown during the winter. The word signatus that accompanies its scientific name, and whose translation can be understood as “mark”, has its origin in a series of white features present in the upper lips of the Iberian wolf, and dark in the tail and its front limbs.

What Does The Iberian Wolf Eat?

The diet of the Iberian wolf will vary greatly depending on the place or area where they live . The wolves of the Cantabrian area, for example, can feed on deer, roe deer and wild boar, while the wolves of Galicia will feed in part on the remains of poultry and pig farms.

On the other hand, the wolves native to Castilla y León will base their diet mainly on rabbits. In general, the main source of food for these canids comes from livestock, especially in the form of carrion. However, after the ban on leaving animal carcasses in the countryside for fear of mad cow disease, wolves have begun to feed mostly on live sheep and cattle.

Reproduction of the Iberian wolf

Wolves are social animals; they live in packs essentially composed of related individuals. Only the dominant pair (female and alpha male ) reproduce in the group, except in rare cases; the rest cooperates in the hunting and care of young pups. This monogamous system controls the structure of the group and regulates the size of the population.

The breeding season of the wolves begins in winter or early spring, depending on the latitude. The gestation lasts from 61 to 63 days; The wolves in Iberia stop between April and June. The size of litter is very variable among populations, and ranges from 1 to 11 puppies. The puppies open their eyes at 10-15 days, and they wean around a month and a half, when they begin to feed on meat regurgitated by the members of the group. At 3 weeks the puppies make the first exits from the lair, and from 2 months they remain with the rest of the pack in the “meeting places” (rendez-vous). The age of sexual maturation varies, and is also conditioned by the social structure of the groups.