“Look at him, look at him, my hen is eating there, don’t think that he is scared when he sees me, not at all. One less hen, ”says Sergio Heredero De la Vega, stunned, while recording an Iberian lynx who continues to savor the bird that he has just hissed from his hen house on a farm in Toledo, between the municipalities of Polán and Gálvez. The specimen jumped a fence of more than two meters. “Under my nose, as if nothing and with the chicken in the mouth.” Days before, on December 2, his wife found about 20 destroyed birds in the small chicken coop they have for family consumption on the farm, where they also grow organic pistachios. At first they did not know which animal could have perpetrated the massacre, because more predators such as foxes or martens live in the area, but a bite mark gave away the lynx. Despite the pain of losing his chickens, Heredero De la Vega is sympathetic to a species that elicits sympathy despite the damage. “The beauty of this is to see a lynx so close, the bad thing is that it is leaving me without my chickens, but we will have to adapt to living with it, there is no other, it is in danger of extinction and we are not,” he clarifies in the recording.
“We have been living with the feline for a year and a half or two, we know it is there and we try to respect it as much as possible,” explains the owner of the farm, a truck driver from Monday to Friday and a setter on weekends. He is still in awe of the lynx’s skill and intelligence in locating the weakest point in the fence to enter and escape. With his mobile at the ready, he followed the blood trail until he located the feline eating the bird. He recorded the scene “to have evidence when it comes to demonstrating who is attacking my chicken coop.”
With the help of the regional government they have reinforced the inner chicken coop and now it is hoping to make the outer fence invulnerable to predators. “They have also told me that they are going to bring me a mastiff to defend the birds. In the end, it’s going back to how our grandparents did it, “explains Heredero De la Vega in a telephone conversation, who in the future wants to start a business selling eggs from” happy chickens. “
The growth in the number of lynx causes scenes of this type in other parts of Spain where there are populations of the species, as in Andalusia, where half of the specimens on the Iberian Peninsula live. The regional government announced this March that it had repaired 30 chicken coops affected by the presence of the feline in the Guadalmellato area, especially in the municipalities of Adamuz, Villafranca de Córdoba and Montoro, in the Sierra de Córdoba, at the foot of Sierra Morena. Baltasar García, olive grower from Adamuz of the UPA organization, owns chickens for his own consumption and has had no choice but to enclose them in a fence and protect them with an electric shepherd (electrified cables) “below, above and in the middle of the fence” . He assures that they enter the facilities because “there is not much rabbit and they are hungry and the problem is that when he does, he kills everyone.” In these cases, it is communicated to the Junta de Andalucía, “but if one or two are taken, then you assume the losses.” García clarifies that the lynx does not seem bad, but perhaps “they should be more controlled and provide them with food, perhaps repopulate with rabbits.”
“As the population increases, these attacks can be increased and from the council we try to improve the conditions of the chicken coops and replace the casualties”, explains Antonio Aranda, head of the Natural Spaces service of the Ministry of Sustainable Development of Castilla- La Mancha. At the moment, he adds, “the damage is not generalized because not all lynx behave that way and they tend to enter very homemade facilities that are not prepared,” he says.
The main component of the lynx’s diet is the rabbit and it may happen that there is not a high density of specimens – the appropriate thing is between two and four rabbits per hectare – or that there are young individuals that in the dispersal to find new territories run into some easy-to-catch chickens. “But it is not the generalized behavior of the species, there are individuals that attack this type of facility and others do not,” underlines Luis Suárez, head of the WWF Species program.
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The growth of the Iberian lynx population has been spectacular, although the species continues to be in danger of extinction. In 2002, when the reintroduction program began, there were only 94 individuals left in the Iberian Peninsula and now the population reaches 1,111 individuals between adults and puppies. Half of the lynx live in the five nuclei of Andalusia. It is followed by Castilla-La Mancha with a third of the population and Extremadura, with 141 specimens. In Portugal, 140 felines live in the Guadiana valley area, indicate the latest data from the Ministry for Ecological Transition.
In Castilla-La Mancha, about 100 captive-bred specimens have been released since 2015, which have settled in three stable areas. Last year, the population exceeded 180 individuals, to which must be added 146 cubs. The latest data from the Ministry of Sustainable Development indicate that this year 200 lynxes have been born. The next steps for the conservation of the species seek to connect the populations to avoid inbreeding that could end the success obtained so far and create two new lynx areas, one in Lorca (Murcia) and the other in Sierra Arana (Granada).
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