Mammals of Extremadura

Although birds are the most popular class, they’re probably my favorite animals. The difficulty of observing mammals of Extremadura during the day (many of them are nocturnal), their distrust, and their ability to blend in with the environment in which they live only increases my motivation to stalk them.

Mammals of Extremadura
Ciervo rojo, Isaac Fdez Galisteo

Once again, Extremadura is a top community in which we will see great herbivores, a great variety of carnivores and an enormous biodiversity of the other groups.

Sighting of mammals from Extremadura

To observe large ungulates the best advice is to try to do it from the car. These animals are very accustomed to living with vehicles, from farmers or ranchers, which pass through the roads to attend to their farms. Travelling along dirt roads in areas that are very pleasant, slowly and of course very carefully, is a good way to get close to them. We can see deer, fallow deer, wild boar… Even if we are lucky we can come across some carnivores, rabbits and hares or rodents.

Gineta Genetta genetta
Gineta, Fernando Mostacero

If we choose to look for them on foot, we will have to bet on either the first or the last hours of the day and move around quietly. Most mammals concentrate their scarce daytime activity at dawn or dusk. Their smell, sight and hearing are several times superior to ours and they will have no trouble locating us before we have seen them.

And finally, if we want to locate the bats, we must look for caves, caverns, abandoned mines and surrounding areas. Both in the north of Cáceres and in the Villuercas there are interesting concentrations of several species of bats.

I have decided to classify the mammals of Extremadura by their respective orders (except erinaceous, thalpids and soricids which have changed their taxonomy), to facilitate their location. I hope that these little “tips” will be useful to you and that you will be lucky to coincide with all kinds of mammals.

Reptiles

As you walk through the countryside you hear a winding noise in the vegetation. Who hasn’t been startled by the movement of a snake in the dry grass? Or the stampede of a lizard as it flees through the bushes when it notices our presence? The reptiles of Extremadura are one of the most unknown, but no less relevant, classes. Don’t forget that the vast majority of offidios are harmless to human beings… And the few that are poisonous present hardly any danger so when you come across them just enjoy their presence at a safe distance.

Reptiles have always aroused curiosity and respect, and it is well worth spending a few seconds observing them when we have a fleeting crossing in the countryside

Reptiles of Extremadura
Collared snake

With average temperatures several degrees above the country’s average, Extremadura is an excellent community for reptile watching. Here they are active for more months of the year than in other colder communities. These are the species we can observe:

Family Colubridae (Reptiles of Extremadura)

Bastard snake Malpolon monspessulanus
Malpolon monspessulanus
Juvenile bastard snake, Álvaro de las Heras

The largest snake in the Iberian Peninsula, it can measure up to 240 cm. It behaves aggressively if it is cornered, although its bite is not dangerous to humans. However, it has a small amount of venom in its back teeth that inoculates the small rodents it feeds on. Since it is located in the back teeth it will never reach a human being in case of an accidental bite. Very common, we can see it in pastures, grasslands and bushes all over the region. It prefers sunnier areas and feeds on small vertebrates (younger specimens eat many invertebrates as well).

Collared snake Natrix aspreptophora
Natrix natrix
Collared snake, Mariano Cordero

The collared snake, or water snake, is a snake associated with river ecosystems. It feeds on all kinds of small animals: mainly amphibians and fish, but also small mammals or birds if it has the chance. It swims very well and is usually active during the day, so we can easily observe it in streams, creeks, lagoons and other aquatic ecosystems.

Horseshoe snake Hemorrhois hippocrepis
Hemorrhois hippocrepis
Horseshoe snake

Its circular spots on its entire back are characteristic of the species. It is a large snake, similar to the staircase snake, which lives in open spaces such as the Mediterranean scrubland, pastures, grasslands or crops. It does not like dense trees but is a good climber and often preys on birds’ nests, whether in trees or in holes in stone walls. Although it is not threatened it is not very abundant either so we will be lucky if we come across it.

Ladder snake Zamenis scalaris
Reptiles of Extremadura
Ladder snake

The ladder snake is the second largest snake in the peninsula, after the bastard snake, reaching more than 150cm the largest specimens. It lives mainly in low-density forests, riverside forests, pastures and ecotones. It is also comfortable in cereal areas as long as they have bushes and thickets nearby for shelter. We find it all over the region.

Smooth snake Coronella austriaca
Coronella austriaca
Smooth snake

Medium sized snake, rarely exceeding 60 cm. Generally greyish in colour, turning reddish in some specimens, it is characterised by a dark line on both sides of the head. It occupies areas with sufficient plant cover, either areas of bush or forest borders. There it feeds mainly on small reptiles, although it can also occasionally capture small mammals. It mainly inhabits the northern half of the peninsula, although it has occasionally been observed north of Cáceres.

Snake of cogulla Macroprotodon brevis
Macroprotodon brevis
Snake of cogulla, Álvaro de las Heras

The snake of cogulla lives in meadows and pastures and is distributed throughout Extremadura, although it is not particularly abundant. It is very small, no more than 40 cm, and usually takes refuge under small stones. It tends to be near wetlands, streams, lakes, rivers… and feeds on small reptiles. As soon as the temperature rises enough, it has night habits. It has a small amount of poison, which it also inoculates from its back teeth, so it is not dangerous to humans.

Southern smooth snake Coronella girondica
Coronella girondica
Southern smooth snake

It’s a medium sized snake <80cm. Behind its head it has a large, characteristic U-shaped spot. Its preferred ecosystem is the Mediterranean scrubland, looking for dry, rocky, south-facing slopes. The best time to observe it is spring, as it is very active during the day.

Viperine snake Natrix maura
Reptiles of Extremadura
Viperine snake, Álvaro de las Heras

Like Natrix natrix, it has aquatic tastes and is usually found in the same ecosystems, carrying a similar diet. Its head is triangular in shape, resembling the shape of a snake’s head, hence its name. It is more abundant than the collared snake and we can observe it in similar situations.


Family Viperidae

Snub-nosed snake Vipera latastei
Vipera latastei
Snub-nosed snake

It is a small snake (usually not more than 60 cm), which is characterized by a dark zigzag band on the back. It lives in rocky and stony areas of the Mediterranean mountain, with abundant shelters and far from rural areas. This viper feeds mainly on shrews, mice and other reptiles, although it can also prey on invertebrates. It is one of the rarest reptiles in Extremadura, although it is distributed throughout the region, provided that the required habitat is present. Although it is poisonous, its sting is not fatal to humans, but we must be equally careful.


Family Lacertidae (reptiles of Extremadura)

Black-green lizard Lacerta schreiberi
Reptiles of Extremadura
Black-green lizard

It is a lizard of considerable size, second only to its relative, the ocellated lizard. Adult specimens have multiple black spots on their backs and live in both bushes and deciduous forests, always with nearby waterways, generally at a certain altitude. We can also observe it on stone walls, with nearby mowing pastures. Its state of conservation is “almost threatened” so it is not very abundant. The northeast of Cáceres is the best area to observe it.

Carbonell’s lizard Podarcis carbonelli
Podarcis hispanica
Carbonell’s lizard, Álvaro de las Heras

A small lizard (less than 5 cm), that has a predilection for rocky and stony areas. It is also very comfortable on stone walls, whether fences or walls of houses. It goes into heat from March to June, when it is easier to observe, although it is not very abundant.

Cinderella lizard Psammodromus hispanicus
Psammodromus hispanicus
Cinderella lizard

The cinderella Lizard finds its main habitat in the Mediterranean scrub, but also in grasslands and crop fields. It can measure up to 15 cm and feeds on insects and spiders. It is widely distributed throughout the region, being most abundant in the province of Cáceres. The cinderella lizard frequently observed between April and October.

Cyren’s rock lizard Iberolacerta cyreni
Iberolacerta cyreni
Cyren’s rock lizard

It is a robust, medium-sized lizard that lives in high mountain rocks. Its dorsal coloration is brown or green with reticulation and it has a smooth bordered collar. We found it above 1700 m of altitude, in the mountain ranges of the north of Cáceres. It is an Iberian endemism that feeds mainly on insects and arthropods. Today it is threatened by loss of habitat quality.

Geniez’s wall lizard Podarcis virescens
Podarcis virescens
Geniez’s wall lizard, Duarte Frade

Apparently very similar to Podarcis guadarramae, it differs from the latter by small nuances. The dorsolateral bands are more rounded and less elongated and the iris is usually more orange. Males also tend to be less flattened. It can be found throughout the region, in rocky and sparsely wooded areas. It is often associated with human constructions and / or farming areas.

Iberian lizard Podarcis Guadarramae
Podarcis guadarramae
Iberian lizard, Nika

It is a small lizard, with a flat head and variable colouring. It lives in areas with little vegetation, preferably rocky and stony soils, and can be found in rural areas. The iberian lizard basically feeds on insects, although it can also prey on the young of other lizards. It can be found mainly in the northern half of Cáceres.

Long-tailed lizard Psamodromus algirus
Reptiles of Extremadura
Long-tailed lizard, Álvaro de las Heras

A large lizard can grow to over 20 cm (tail included). Its tail can measure 60% of the total or even more. Very associated with the Mediterranean mountain, it inhabits both thickets and forests of all kinds. It is one of the most abundant species in the region and is adapted to all types of environments.

Ocellated lizard Lacerta lepida
Lacerta lepida
Ocellated lizard, Álvaro de las Heras

It is a large lizard and very abundant, it is rare not to come across it on our spring walks through areas of Mediterranean scrub, grassland or cultivation areas. Its importance in the ecosystem is key, as it forms part of the diet of a good number of predators. Among them we could highlight the short-toed snake eagle Circaetus gallicus.

Red-tailed lizard Acanthodactylus erythrurus
Acanthodactylus erythrurus
Red-tailed lizard

An intermediate size lizard, which can reach 23 cm (including tail). It has a typically striped back and its tail usually has reddish tones, hence its name. It lives in areas of scrubland, conifer and oak woods mainly, provided they are open and it has a predilection for sandy soils. More abundant in the province of Cáceres and likes to sunbathe on its own soil. It is not currently under threat, although it is not particularly abundant.


Family Gekkonidae (reptiles of Extremadura)

Common gecko Tarentola mauritanica
Reptiles of Extremadura
Common gecko, Ángel Cañones

This small reptile, very common throughout the region, lives mainly on rocks and stony ground, although it is very common to see it on walls and walls in rural environments. At nightfall and especially in summer, it is common to see them on top of walls, stalking insects that approach nearby streetlights to feed on them.

Pink gecko Hemidactilus turcicus
Reptiles of Extremadura
Pink gecko

Its habitat is similar to that of the common gecko, but its distribution is much more restricted. Its smaller size and lighter, slightly pinkish tones give it away. When it coexists with the Tarentola mauritanica it moves towards more closed grounds, close to the ground. It is more abundant in the province of Badajoz, although it is also expanding in the province of Cáceres to the north.


Family Scincidae (reptiles of Extremadura)

Western three-toed skink Chalcides striatus
Chalcides striatus
Western three-toed

A curious reptile whose limbs are so atrophied that they hardly help it in its locomotion. Its habitat is varied and it can be found in scrubland, pastureland and grassland ecosystems, provided there are streams or pools nearby. Despite its appearance, it moves very quickly and at the slightest sign of alarm it hides under rocks or in holes in the ground, making it difficult to observe. Present in both provinces, although not particularly abundant, it is always linked to areas with a certain degree of humidity.

Iberian skink Chalcides bedriagai
Reptiles of Extremadura
Iberian skink, Álvaro de las Heras

Unlike its relative, its back is rather smooth (striped on the three-toed), and it is a little smaller. Its limbs are very small, but it still uses them when moving. It also lives in areas with little tree cover and stony places, with sandy or earthy substrate. It is also very difficult to observe, as it tends to camouflage easily among the grass or leaf litter. Fragmented and irregular distribution also throughout the region.


Family Amphisbaenidae

Iberian worm lizard Blanus cinereus
reptiles de Extremadura
Iberian worm lizard

Another curious reptile, in this case totally adapted to underground life and without limbs. Rarely exceeds 25 cm, usually inhabits under oak groves, oak and pine forests of the Mediterranean. It has a preference for warm environments but where there is a certain amount of humidity that makes it easier to dig galleries in the ground. Present throughout the community, the best way to observe it is by lifting stones and being lucky…

Maria’s worm lizard Blanus mariae

Similar to Blanus cinereus, its length also does not usually exceed 27 cm. Also of underground habits, it likes sandy soils in which it can easily dig its tunnels. In principle it can be found throughout the region and is not threatened. It mainly feeds on insects and other invertebrates.


Family Bataguridae (reptiles of Extremadura)

Spanish pond turtle Mauremys leprosa
Reptiles of Extremadura
Spanish pond turtle

Present in ponds, streams, rivers and reservoirs is a reptile abundant in the community unlike the European pond turtle, more scarce and declining. It differs from it in that its carapace is flatter and olive green (the European has a more curved carapace, darker in colour and usually presents yellow lines). It is very common to see it sunning itself at the water’s edge when the sun is hottest.

European pond turtle Emys orbicularis
Emis orbicularis
European pond turtle

Much rarer than the spanish pond turtle, it is usually displaced by it when they coincide in the same ecosystem. Their diet is very similar in both species: all kinds of small animals, both vertebrates and invertebrates, including carrion and occasionally some plants. Both species are threatened by the introduction of an exotic species, the red-eared slider Trachemys scripta, with which they compete for habitat and food. Their populations are highly fragmented and endangered.

Thanks to Alvaro de las Heras, Ángel Cañones and Mariano Cordero for the pictures.

Amphibians

My first contacts with amphibians happened in my earliest childhood, when every village child played at catching frogs and tadpoles in ponds and streams in my village. From then on I always liked to observe them on my fishing days, trying to distinguish their species… Although I have to admit that I have had to pull some bibliography for some of them! Here are the main amphibians of Extremadura.

Amphibians of Extremadura
Common salamander, Álvaro de las Heras

Although they are not the most sought-after vertebrates, Extremadura’s ecosystems are home to an interesting biodiversity of amphibians, due to the enormous quantity and variety of aquatic ecosystems.

Below I present the different species of salamanders, newts, frogs and toads present in the community.

Order Anuros (Amphibians of Extremadura)

Commonly known as frogs and toads, there are nine species:

Common frog Pelophylax perezi

Widely distributed throughout the region, of the amphibians of Extremadura, it is the most common, also in the Iberian Peninsula. We find it in all kinds of ponds, lagoons, rivers and streams. Of medium size, it does not require excessively well preserved waters, hence its capacity to adapt. It is of great ecological importance as it forms part of the diet of many predators ,it presents a very variable coloration, alternating green and brown tones.

Pelophylax perezi
Greenish Common frog Álvaro de las Heras
Amphibians of Extremadura
Common frog, Álvaro de las Heras

Common midwife toad Alytes obstetricans
Alytes obstetricans
Small Common midwife toad

A small toad, it is currently not endangered and can be found throughout most of the Iberian Peninsula, except for Andalusia. It feeds on all types of invertebrates and its habitat is very varied, and it can even be found in urban areas. It is stocky in appearance and has small black, green and reddish spots. More abundant in Cáceres than in Badajoz, its activity is mainly nocturnal or crepuscular.

Common toad Bufo espinosus
Bufo espinosus
Common toad, Álvaro de las Heras

It is the largest toad (can weigh up to 80 grams) that inhabits the peninsula and its state of conservation is good because it survives well in all types of waters, even those of lower quality. We can find it in all kinds of grasslands, with very terrestrial habits, it prefers to reproduce in deep and stable water masses.

Iberian midwife toad Alytes cisternasii
Alytes cisternasii
Iberian Midwife Toad, Seila López

It is a small toad, less than 5 cm, and we can find it mainly in the southern half of Cáceres and in the east of Badajoz, almost always associated with pastures and meadows of oaks and cork oaks. It is an endemic species of the Iberian Peninsula and is catalogued as “almost threatened”.

Iberian painted frog Discoglossus galganoi
Discoglossus garganoi
Iberian painted frog, Álvaro de las Heras

A little bigger than the previous ones, it can measure up to 7 cm. Although it is abundant in the whole community, a good place to see it is the surroundings of the Monfragüe National Park. It always lives in areas of high humidity, normally in grasslands with a lot of herbaceous cover, near rivers and streams.

Iberian speckled toad Pelodytes ibéricus
Amphibians of Extremadura
Iberian Speckled Toad, Álvaro de las Heras

Present in central and southern Extremadura, it is endemic to the Iberian Peninsula, although it has its main populations in southwestern Andalusia. It’s a small toad, less than 4,5 cm. It lives in open areas, with little vegetation making their placements in temporary pools and small streams.

Long legged frog Rana iberica
Amphibians of Extremadura
Long legged frog, Asociación Arbórea

It is a small frog that usually lives in streams and small mountain rivers of clear water. Their main food is insects and spiders. In Extremadura it is present in the north and east of the province of Cáceres. It differs from other similar frogs (brown and red) in that it has more developed hind legs.

Running frog Epidalea calamita
Epidalea calamita
Running frog, Álvaro de las Heras

This toad is also widely distributed and is smaller than Bufo bufo, although larger than most other toads. It has a nocturnal habit and usually spends its days underground or under a rock. This toad has the peculiarity that it does not jump, it moves with a kind of trot or run that gives it its name. It abounds throughout the community.

Spurred toad Pelobates cultripes
Pelobates cultripes
Spurred toad

It is not yet threatened but its populations are suffering a major regression, as are most anurans due to habitat loss. This toad also inhabits grasslands with minimal moisture. It likes to breed in cattle ponds from February onwards, where we can easily observe them. The rest of the year is difficult because it spends a lot of time underground.

St. Anthony’s frog Hyla arborea
Amphibians of Extremadura
St. Anthony’s frog

Small-sized frog with smooth skin, likes to climb reeds and small trees in wet areas. This frog has the ability to attach itself to vegetation with its legs, being able to climb trees several meters high. It concentrates its activity at night, sunrise and sunset. It is distributed throughout the region and is not particularly threatened.

Mediterranean tree frog Hyla meridionalis
Hyla meridionalis
Southern Ranita,  Álvaro de las Heras

Less than 5 cm in size,it’s a climbing frog very similar to Hyla arborea. It differs from Hyla arborea in that the dark side strip is only present on the face, not on the sides of the body. It is abundant in Extremadura and is active from dusk until morning, remaining hidden during the central hours of the day.


Order Caudados (Amphibians of Extremadura)

Unlike frogs and toads, they are amphibians that possess tails and are commonly like salamanders and newts, we can highlight the following species:

Common salamander Salamandra salamandra
Salamandra salamandra
Common salamander, Álvaro de las Heras

Of medium size, it stands out for its very showy and striking colours. Of terrestrial habits, it only enters the water to reproduce. It can be found in deciduous forests and bordering biotopes, provided there are nearby streams. It is more abundant in the province of Cáceres, especially in the south and southeast.

Iberian newt Lissotriton boscai
Lissotriton boscai
Iberian newt, Seila López

A small-sized newt, we usually find it at the headwaters of rivers where the waters are clearer, although it can also inhabit seasonal lagoons. Most of its activity takes place in the aquatic environment, both at night and during the day. It is distributed throughout the community and feeds on small invertebrates.

Iberian ribbed newt Pleurodeles waltl
Pleurodeles waltl
Iberian ribbed newt, Seila López

It is the largest amphibian in Extremadura (up to 30 cm) that we can observe in the community, is very common in ponds, lagoons, streams and all kinds of waters with little current. It feeds on invertebrates associated with the river environment and is more abundant in the province of Cáceres and east of Badajoz.

Marbled newt Triturus marmoratus
Triturus marmoratus
Marbled newt, Enrique Dans

Of medium size (the adult measures between 11 and 16 cm), this species can only be found in the north of the province of Cáceres. It mainly inhabits stagnant waters: lakes, ponds, watering holes, pools of small streams… But above all, whenever there is abundant aquatic vegetation. Like other newts, it feeds on small invertebrates and is currently not endangered.

Pygmy newt Triturus pygmaeus
Amphibians of Extremadura
Pygmy newt, Álvaro de las Heras

Small-sized Urodelo (up to 12 cm) also present in rivers, streams, ponds, marshes… we can even find it in irrigated fields. It looks a lot like the marbled newt although this one is a little bigger. It likes stagnant waters or with little current in which it feeds on small invertebrates. Most of the population is in Cáceres, in the south of the province, although we can also find it in Badajoz.

Thanks to Seila López and Alvaro de las Heras for the photographic material.