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Mammals in Andalucía

A herd of Spanish Ibex. Photo Eva Bratek.

A herd of Spanish Ibex. Photo Eva Bratek. Click to enlarge.

Mammals can be quite elusive for even the keenest of observers.  It is a very rewarding experience to be able to watch a mammal in its natural environment. In Andalucía in the Grazalema and Sierra de las Nieves Natural Parks there are particular mammals which are quite interesting as they are typical for Spain or for Andalucía and the more interesting to a visitor. Spanish Ibex rules the high sierras. This is probably the mammal you have the biggest chance to find and to observe for longer than a brief moment. It is truly fascinating to watch these graceful animals climb sheer rock faces in a neat line, seemingly without any effort. These ungulates are protected by law although periodically they need to be culled. There are no natural predators which could control the Ibex population as the Iberian Wolf was killed off in the 1950´s. Foxes can attack small Ibex and Golden Eagles could snatch a baby however the Golden Eagles are not numerous enough in the area to be counted as a significant top predator.

Male Red Deer. Photo Eva Bratek.

Male Red Deer. Photo Eva Bratek. Click to enlarge.

The Egyptian Mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon) and the Common Genet (Genetta genetta) are the two mammal species which are extremely interesting to see as they only populate South of Europe. In order to find these two species anywhere else you would have to go to North of Africa and in case of the Mongoose also to Turkey, Syria or Iraq. Genets are crepuscular and nocturnal. The Mongoose is less secretive than the Genet and can be occasionally spotted during the day although it does prefer night-time and dusk to look for food which famously includes snakes. Another species not found in the North of Europe is the second smallest mammal in the world, the Pygmy White-toothed Shrew (Suncus etruscus). These tiny creatures are unfortunately best observed when found dead on forest paths or in swimming pools. They are simply too small and too fast to be spotted alive easily. Curiously, our part of Andalucía does not contain either Red or the invasive Grey Squirrel. Other, possibly more familiar mammals, such as Badger, Weasel, Stone Marten, Otter, Fox. Wild Boar and deer are present in the Natural Parks. Wild Boar is especially numerous in Los Alcornocales and Sierra de las Nieves. There are three species of deer in the Ronda area: Red Deer (Cervus elaphus), Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus) and the introduced Fallow Deer (Dama dama). Roe Deer is by far the biggest treat to see as it is small and shy, which has earned it the Spanish nickname of el duende del bosque, the forest elf. Red Deer is also frequently introduced for hunting and can be seen in certain areas close to Ronda and Montejaque jumping over the fences to graze on the sides of the road.

Click on any photo for larger view. Visit our Photograph Gallery for more mammal images.

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