Mammals are perhaps the hardest group of animals to see in the wild. Many, such as the mice, voles and shrews are small. Many only come out at night – or are most active then, such as Badgers and Martens. But mostly they are hard to see because they are rare and shy of humans. Of course, these last two statements are linked; they are rare because they have been persecuted, and are shy because they are still hunted. Unfortunately, many species that were found in Lebanon in historic times are now extinct in the country and are rare internationally. Species that were most closely in competition with people, either because they would eat his livestock or him (!) were eliminated early, so Lions (Panthera leo) have been missing from the region for nearly a thousand years.
Brown Bear (Ursus arctos syriacus)
However, the last Brown Bear (Ursus arctos syriacus), above, and Leopard (Panthera pardus) in Lebanon were hunted in the early 20th Century, and both species are still found in small numbers in the wider region.
It is not only the large fierce animals that have been lost from the Lebanese mammal list. Large herbivores such as the Fallow Deer (Dama mesopotamica), left, and Nubian Ibex (Capra ibex) are also extinct.
Despite millennia of hunting in Lebanon many species are still with us, albeit some with tiny and highly threatened populations. Even such large predators as the Wolf and Striped Hyena, shown below, can still be found in Lebanon’s wilder spots.
Fallow Deer (Dama mesopotamica)
To see wild mammals you have to be very patient, quiet and lucky! However, evidence that they are to be found is all around – if you know what to look for. Common signs of mammal activity include footprints and droppings. Certain species leave other evidence e.g. the quills of Porcupines and the earth hills (below) left by the underground rodent the Lesser Mole Rat (Spalax leucodon). Although few people have seen Mole Rats (they look rather like hairy sausages) you just need to take a walk in the Lebanese hills and you will find their characteristic excavations, showing there are many under your feet.
More evidence of mammals around us is shown below – (left) Wild Cat (Felis sylvestris) and (center) Jackal (Canis aureus), in snow, and (right) Otter droppings (Lutra lutra). The best place to see a selection of Lebanon’s wild mammals is at Animal Encounter. Find out more about Lebanon’s mammals by following the links below to some surprising species!