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A golden jackal. UICN
Watch as first golden jackals are spotted in the wild in Spain as experts say there is 'no doubt' more will arrive
Nature

Watch as first golden jackals are spotted in the wild in Spain as experts say there is 'no doubt' more will arrive

The wolf-like canid - native to Eurasia - has spread to a dozen European countries in the past decade

Isabel Miranda

Madrid

Wednesday, 13 March 2024, 11:56

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A golden jackal, native to Eurasia, has been sighted in Spain for the first time.

The wolf-like canid which is nocturnal and highly intelligent is mainly seen in Asia, and in recent decades has begun to expand into central and southwestern Europe via the Balkans. But a specimen was captured with photo-tripping cameras for the first time in Spain, near the city of Zaragoza. "This is the advance guard," biologist Francisco García, who verified the images with Adrián Royo-Vicente, told ABC newspaper - a sister title of SUR.

Suspicions that jackals were starting to enter Spain were started last year, after one was found dead in Álava in the Basque Country. Last February, three videos were recorded during a single night and within a few seconds of each other sighting a new specimen. "I was shocked to see it," García said, who quickly ruled out it was a fox or a wolf. "Seeing the species' ability to travel far and how they have been moving southwestwards, I find it hard to believe this is a coincidence," said the scientist.

Capable of travelling thousands of kilometres and highly adaptable to their surroundings, the canid has already moved across half of Europe. They have been seen in 33 countries on the continent, with a dozen of them reported in the past decade, including Switzerland, Estonia and Latvia, Poland, Denmark, Lithuania, the Netherlands and France. "We don't really know why this has happened", the biologist said, adding that more favourable climatic conditions could be behind it or that it is safer from prey in Europe.

"There is no doubt that the golden jackals are going to arrive in Spain," García said, pointing out there are more sightings in France and they are breeding in Switzerland. If it is declared a game species, the biologist predicted they will take longer to spread to Spain than if it is declared a protected species, as Germany has done.

"The jackals are quite similar to that of red foxes in Europe, as feeding analyses have shown. Foxes will tend to avoid jackal groups, and similarly jackals will try to avoid wolf packs," said Jennifer Hatlauf of the Golden Jackal Project in Austria. "Jackals are very shy and are often not seen for a long time," she added.

Researchers are not sure whether there are more specimens in Spain. "About 90% of its activity is nocturnal and it goes unnoticed," said the researcher. As for the golden jackal seen a couple of weeks ago, García said it was heading south, although he said these animals "explore without a very definite pattern".

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