Iberian Wolf: Profile and Information

Iberian Wolf
Iberian Wolf (Canis lupus sygnatus) Alpha male in perfect “big bad wolf” pose – head down, eyes fixed, mouth open, forelegs stained with blood. Controlled conditions. Granada, Spain

The Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus) also called the Spanish wolf, is a recognised subspecies of the grey wolf.

It is native to the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula, which includes northwestern Spain and northern Portugal. It is home to 2,200 to 2,700 wolves. They are known to form the largest population among all wolf species in Western Europe.

Iberian wolves are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened species, because of persecution (poison, snares, etc.), loss of habitat, and canid disease.

Due to population damages and controls to livestock, Iberian wolves are, currently, the only wolf species in Western Europe whose hunting remains legal, but only in Spain.

Iberian wolves are desired by many hunters in Western Europe, as they are seen as a big trophy. Iberian wolves are active at night, although, they may exhibit some crepuscular and diurnal activity when they are highly hunted and persecuted.

Scientific classification

Kingdom Animalia
SpeciesC. lupus
SubspeciesC. l. signatus


Compared to the C. l. lupus which has a pale, undefined stroke on its cheek that differs from the white on the throat, the C. l. signatus has a white stroke on its cheek that blends with the white on the throat and the reddish snout.

Compared to the C. l. signatus, the C. l. deitanus is smaller and with more colouring. An Iberian wolf is said to be 140 to 180 cm in head and body length, and 70 – 80 cm height at the shoulders.

The Iberian wolf is different from the common Eurasian wolf with its dark mark on the tail, white marks on the upper lips, slighter frame, and a pair of dark marks on its front legs.

Due to the markings on its body, the subspecies name, signatus which means “marked” was given to it. Males can weigh 66 to 110 lb (30 to 50 kg), although specimens that weighed 75 kg were found.

Males have dimensions and weight higher than those of females. Females can weigh up to 77 lb (35 kg).


The gestation period lasts for 9 weeks, after which the female gives birth. The female gives birth in a den hidden among rocks or vegetation.

A litter may contain up to 8 pups, although it is normally between 2 – 5 pups. In a pack, only the dominant female is allowed to reproduce.

The newborns are born with their eyes closed and do not open them until 12 – 15 days later. The pups stay in the den for 8 – 10 weeks and are also fed by all the pack members until they are 45 days old.

An Iberian wolf is believed to reach adulthood at 2 years old. The average lifespan of an Iberian wolf in the wild is 4 years, which is unfortunately short. However, in captivity, they are known to live up to 13 years.


Iberian wolves are known to live in small packs. This behaviour helps them keep the population of wild boars stable. They also feed on roe deer, rabbits, ibexes, red deer, fish, and small carnivores.

Habitat and distribution

Iberian wolves strongly prefer wooded and rough landscapes to escape from humans. They are known to inhabit mountainous areas, forests, and agricultural areas in central Spain.

Wolves originally occurred across Eurasia and North America. Currently, Russia and Canada host the majority (70%) of the total wolf’s population.

The Iberian wolf never went extinct in Iberia, and it occurs mainly in northern Portugal and northwestern Spain. Iberian wolves are distributed across 52,124 mi sq (135,000 km sq) which is 20% in Portugal and 80% in Spain.

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