The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) is the most endangered wild feline species and the only feline listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Successful conservation actions rely on accurate knowledge of the species' distribution and decline. Anecdotal unverified reports have overestimated the distribution of the Iberian lynx and misrepresented the severity of its decline. We reconstructed the Iberian lynx range from 1940 to 2000 using only records verified with indisputable physical evidence. We collected data from the 2 major scientific vertebrate collections in Spain, trophies registered by hunting authorities, and miscellaneous private collections. Of 320 lynxes collected during 1940–2007, 261 contained adequate date and location information for this study. The overall species range in 1940 included 15 subpopulations occupying 65 verified 10- × 10-km grid cells. Three large subpopulations (Montes de Toledo, eastern Sierra Morena, and Doñana) accounted for 86.6% of records. The species had a steady decline from 1940 until the 1990s, when lynxes remained in only 2 isolated subpopulations. Our reconstruction of verified lynx distributions since 1940 illustrates how most local extinctions occurred before disease outbreaks among prey, previously assumed to be the principal cause of lynx declines. Rabbit diseases alone cannot account for observed lynx declines, and we suggest that human-caused mortality from direct hunting and indiscriminate predator control programs likely played a larger role in the species' decline. Our verified maps provide a more accurate history of the Iberian lynx distribution in Spain than was available previously. Ideally, this information can help managers outline priority areas for conservation and reintroduction programs to reinforce and restore important subpopulations.
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Vol. 92 • No. 5