Spain is a land of stunning landscapes and wildlife. From snow-capped mountains to sun-drenched beaches, the country is home to diverse environments. Aside from its notoriously good-looking human residents, Spain has a whole host of fascinating animals too.
If you are planning a trip to Spain, here are six of the most iconic and adorable animals that may cross your path.
1. The Otter (Lutra lutra)
Otters are not an animal that is commonly associated with Spain—or Europe for that matter—but a healthy population of these cute creatures can be found along the coastline and in the rivers and basins of Andalusia.
Water quality is a prevailing factor for otter population distribution as these animals spend a lot of time hunting fish and crustaceans. They are inquisitive and playful animals and are often found fishing in shallow waters close to shore.
If you want to see otters in their natural habitat, head south to the Doñana National Park in Andalusia where you will find several colonies of otters living in its many wetlands.
2. The Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus)
Also called the Spanish Lynx, the Iberian Lynx is only found in a few remote regions of southern Spain and Portugal. It is one of the most endangered animals in Europe with less than a thousand individuals left in the wild.
The Iberian Lynx prefers to stay in areas of dense vegetation and pasture. This is because they mainly prey on rabbits, rodents, and red-legged partridge. Iberian Lynxes have distinctive tufted ears and dark spotted coats.
This beautiful animal is extremely shy. The best way to see an Iberian Lynx in the wild is to visit the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park in southern Spain where they are known to roam freely.
3. The Iberian Wolf (Canis lupus signatus)
Thanks to conservationists who are working to restore their natural habitats, the majestic Iberian wolf is making a comeback in Spain after being eradicated in most of Northern Europe.
Spanish wolf populations are mainly located in northern Spain and on the Iberian Peninsula. Iberian wolves are becoming increasingly accustomed to the presence of humans but they are still fierce predators who hunt boars, deer, ibexes, and sometimes livestock.
They have characteristic white markings around their jaws and can weigh up to 110 pounds. If you are hoping to see an Iberian wolf in the wild, head to Picos de Europa in the Cantabrian Mountains in northern Spain.
4. The Spanish Ibex (Capra pyrenaica)
The Spanish Ibex is one of the most famous animals in Spain. It lives in mountainous regions and can sometimes be seen in herds of up to thirty members. They feed on grass and acorns that grow on cliffs and rock slopes.
The most distinctive feature of the Spanish Ibex is its large, curved horns that can grow up to three feet long. These horns are used by the male Ibexes to defend their herd and fight off rivals during the mating season. Females give birth to one young each year in the spring and spend most of their time grazing.
The best places to see the Spanish Ibex is the Sierra Nevada and the other mountainous areas of Andalusia.
5. Cantabrian Brown Bear (Ursus arctos arctos)
The Cantabrian brown bear is a subpopulation of the Eurasian brown bear. As its name suggests, it lives in the Cantabrian Mountains which are located on the west coast of northern Spain.
These bears can grow up to 450 pounds with the males becoming much larger than the females. Despite their size, Cantabrian brown bears are timid and elusive. Threatened by hunting and habitat loss, the animal is listed in the Spanish Red List of Endangered Species.
Although the population of Cantabrian brown bears is increasing, they can still be hard to spot. Your best bet is to head to the Somiedo Natural Park in the Cantabrian Mountains.
6. Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aquila adalberti)
The striking Spanish Imperial Eagle is one of the largest birds of prey in Europe. They can grow to weigh up to eight pounds and have a wingspan of six feet. Their primary diet consists of rabbits, hares, and birds, but they have also been known to hunt larger prey such as foxes.
At the end of the twentieth century, there were only 30 pairs of Spanish Imperial Eagles left in the country. However, conservation efforts have helped to increase this number to around 300 pairs today despite prevailing threats of accidental electrocution and poisoning. See them at the Monfragüe National Park in western Spain.
Spain is an incredible country with a wealth of natural beauty and wildlife to explore. There are many different habitats ranging from rocky mountains to dense forests to sunny coasts, all of which provide different habitats that support an interesting array of animals.
Aside from the animals mentioned above, there are Eurasian beavers, Iberian pigs, bearded vultures known as Lammergeiers, goat-like antelopes called Pyrenean chamois, and more.
Scores of fascinating creatures are waiting to be discovered during your travels in Spain.
So try not to spend all your time in the vibrant cities. Take a week off to head into the wildlife reserves and natural parks. You will be rewarded with stunning views and a glimpse of some truly rare and amazing animals.