Mammals in Iran

Only when the last of the animals horns, tusks, skin, and bones have been sold, will mankind realize that money can never buy back our wildlife.
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    Carnivora is a diverse scrotiferan order that includes over 280 species of placental mammals. Its members are formally referred to as carnivorans, whereas the word “carnivore” (often popularly applied to members of this group) can refer to any meat-eating organism. Carnivorans are the most diverse in size of any mammalian order.

    This order includes 31 species in Iran from Canidae, Felidae, Canidae, Herpestidae, Hyaenidae, Mustelidae, Phocidae, Ursidae and Procyonidae families.

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    Odd-toed ungulates, mammals which constitute the taxonomic order Perissodactyla are hoofed animals – ungulates – which bear most of their weight on one (an odd number) of the five toes: the third toe. The non-weight-bearing toes are either present, absent, vestigial, or positioned posteriorly. By contrast, the even-toed ungulates bear most of their weight equally on two (an even number) of the five toes: their third and fourth. toes. Another difference between the two is that odd-toed ungulates digest plant cellulose in their intestines rather than in one or more stomach chambers, as do the even-toed ungulates.

    This order includes 1 species in Iran from Equidae (horses, asses, and zebras) family.

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    The even-toed ungulates are ungulates – hoofed animals – which bear weight equally on two (an even number) of the five toes: their third and fourth toes. The other three toes are either present, absent, vestigial, or pointing posteriorly. By contrast, odd-toed ungulates bear weight on one (an odd number) of the five toes: the third toe. Another difference between the two is that even-toed ungulates digest plant cellulose in one or more stomach chambers rather than in their intestine, as do the odd-toed ungulates.

    This order includes 10 species in Iran from Suidae, Cervidae and Bovidae families.

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    Eulipotyphla (“truly fat and blind”) is an order of mammals suggested by molecular methods of phylogenetic reconstruction, and includes the laurasiatherian members of the now-invalid polyphyletic order Lipotyphla, but not the afrotherian members (tenrecs and golden moles, now in their own order Afrosoricida).

    This order includes 4 species in Iran from Erinaceidae family.

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    The lagomorphs are the members of the taxonomic order Lagomorpha, of which there are two living families: the Leporidae (hares and rabbits) and the Ochotonidae (pikas). This order includes 3 species in Iran from these families.

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    Soricomorpha (“shrew-form”) is a taxon within the class of mammals. In the past it formed a significant group within the former order Insectivora. However, Insectivora was shown to be polyphyletic and various new orders were split off from it.

    This order includes 14 species in Iran from Soricidae (shrews) and Talpidae (moles and close relatives) families.

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    Rodents (from Latin rodere, “to gnaw”) are mammals of the order Rodentia, which are characterized by a single pair of continuously growing incisors in each of the upper and lower jaws. About 40% of all mammal species are rodents.

    This order includes more than 64 species in Iran from Sciuridae, Dipodidae, Calomyscidae, Cricetidae, Muridae, Gliridae, Hystricidae & Myocastoridae families.

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    Bats are mammals of the order Chiroptera; with their forelimbs adapted as wings, they are the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight. Bats are more manoeuvrable than birds, flying with their very long spread-out digits covered with a thin membrane or patagium. The second largest order of mammals, bats comprise about 20% of all classified mammal species worldwide.

    This order includes 49 species in Iran from Pteropodidae, Emballonuridae, Rhinopomatidae, Rhinolophidae, Hipposideridae, Molossidae, Vespertilionidae and Miniopteridae families.

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    Cetacea is a widely distributed and diverse clade of aquatic mammals that today consists of whales, dolphins, and porpoises. Cetaceans are carnivorous and finned. Most species live in the sea, some in rivers.

    This order includes 14 species in Iran from Balaenopteridae (rorquals), Physeteroiadae (sperm whales), Delphinidae (oceanic dolphins) and Phocoenidae (Porpoises) families.

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    The Sirenia, commonly referred to as sea cows or sirenians, are an order of fully aquatic, herbivorous mammals that inhabit swamps, rivers, estuaries, marine wetlands, and coastal marine waters.

    This order includes 1 species in Iran from Dugongidae (the dugong) family

Carnivora mammals of Iran

Family: Canidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 75-105 cm, T 20-26 cm, SH 40-50 cm, and W 7-15 kg. Males and females are similar. The jackal with a medium-sized body is larger than the Common fox. It has a narrow muzzle and big ears. The bushy tail is short and usually has a dark tip. The color of the tail and dorsal is brownish-gray with black stripes, flanks are tawny and ventral is buff and white. The areas around the lips, cheeks and throat are white. Like other canids, it is digitigrades with 5 toes on the forefeet with the first inner finger being above the others and 4 toes on the hind feet.

Biological characteristic: The jackal is social; aſter sunset they howl together with a distinctive high-pitched, yapping call that resembles the scream of a child. It is largely nocturnal but is also observed during the day. It is an omnivore, eating small mammals, insects, carrion, vegetative materials and garbage. Mating takes place in winter and aſter a gestation period of 63 days 3 to 6, sometimes 10, pups are born, weighing 200 to 250 gr. Young are born with closed eyes and soſt dark gray fur. Eyes open aſter 10 days and pups are suckled by their mother for 8 weeks. The jackal becomes adult at the age of 21 month. Its natural enemies are wolves and leopards. Longevity in captivity is 12 to 16 years.

Distribution: The jackal lives in most habitats from mangrove forest to mountainous, forested and desert areas and can be found close to human inhabitations. It is distributed in most areas of Iran except playas and sandy areas. One of the most abundant carnivores of Iran and particularly abundant around villages and cities.

Family: Canidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 90-130 cm, T 30-50 cm, SH 65-80 cm and W 20-80 kg. The wolf is the largest wild canid in Iran. Males and females are similar in appearance. The species can be distinguished from the domestic dog by having a larger and wider head, oblique eyes and a heavily muscled neck that is held level with the spine. Contrary to domestic dogs the wolf does not usually raise its tail. The muzzle is long and powerful and the sense of smell is strong. The fur is composed of a thick undercoat and long coarse guard hairs that enable the animal to be active at temperature as low as -40 degree Celsius. The color of the fur is usually grey but sometimes whitish, buff, fawn or dark grey. The bushy tail is black tipped with black hairs.

Biological characteristic: Wolves are social animals and live in family packs of 5 to 8, and sometimes 10, individuals. They are oſten nocturnal but may also be observed during the day. Prey consists of large ungulates, small mammals, domestic goats and sheep. When prey is scarce the diet might include carrion or even plant mater. Mating, between dominant individuals in the pack, takes place in winter. Gestation lasts 61 to 63 days aſter which 4 to 7 pups weighing 300 to 500 grams are born. Pups are born blind and deaf, are covered in soſt, black fur, suckle for 7 to 9 weeks and reach maturity at 1 to 3 years. Longevity in nature is less than 10 years while they live over 20 years in captivity.

Distribution: The species inhabits the majority of habitats in Iran from dense forests to desert areas. Although it has a wide distribution in Iran, it is relatively rare. It is more abundant in western and northwestern parts of the country.

Family: Canidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 34-47 cm, T 26-36 cm, SH 26-28 cm, and W 0.7-1.6 kg. Male and female are similar. It is the smallest fox in Iran. It is distinguished from other foxes by its dark fur, large and bushy tail (as big as the animal itself) which is not white-tipped. The ears are wide and elongated and the muzzle is short. Fur on the back is thick and brown-gray; interspersed with long black guard hairs and ventral is dark yellow. The head and neck are gray and black tear lines run from the internal corner of the eye to the muzzle.

Biological characteristic: This fox is solitary, nocturnal and is seldom observed during the day. Except in winter when it demonstrates increased crepuscularity. Although omnivorous, it mainly feeds on insects and plants and also rodents, birds and rarely reptiles. It breeds in winter and is monogamous. Gestation period is 50 to 60 days and 1 to 3 pups are born which weigh 50 to 100 gr. They have soſt black fur when born and suckle 6 to 8 weeks. They reach adulthood at the age of one. Longevity in the wild is less than 5 years and in captivity 6 years.

Distribution: The species lives in semi-deserts, steppes and arid mountains. But recently observed in woodlands of Kabir Kouh protected area in Ilam province. It is one of the rarest carnivores of Iran that distributed in the central and eastern part of the country and also occurs in the west of the Zagros Mountains.

Family: Canidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 45-60 cm, T 20-35, SH 30-35 cm, and W 1.6-3.2 kg. In this species male and female are similar. The tail is short and does not reach the ground. The body is smaller than that of the Common fox with longer limbs. The color of the fur is reddish-buff in summer and whitish gray in winter. The ventral is whitish-yellow and the tail is black-tipped. The ears are pointed and broader at the base and black at the tips.

Biological characteristic: The corsac fox mostly lives solitarily but has also been reported in groups. It is nocturnal and seldom observed during the day. As an omnivore, it feeds on rodents, reptiles, birds, insects and plant material. It is very playful; usually does not occupy a distinct home range and constantly moves. It is monogamous with mating taking place in winter. Aſter a gestation period of 52 to 60 days, 3 to 8 young are born. Newborns have soſt black fur, nurse for 4 month and become mature at the age of one. They do not have specialized predators in nature; only their young are captured by other carnivores or birds of prey. In captivity the lifespan is 9 years.

Distribution: This species occurs in desert and steppe habitats. It is one of rarest carnivore in Iran and there are only two confirmed reports from Turkaman Sahra.

Family: Canidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 35-56 cm, T 25-39 cm, SH 25-30 cm, and W 1.1-2.3 kg. Males and females are similar. The head, body and tail are shorter than those of the common fox whereas the ears are larger and wider. The back of the ear is the same color as the back of the body. It is digitigrade as other canids and the soles of the feet are fully covered with hair to protect the animal from hot desert sand. The Front and hind feet are relatively short. The fur is soſt and dense, sandy or yellowish light orange in color becoming grayish dark brown on the upper side and turning to white on the lower parts. The tail is slightly darker than the body and is white-tipped. The color of sides of the face and cheeks are white and a dark “tear-line” runs from the corner of the eye to the mouth.

Biological characteristic: This species is solitary and nocturnal, rarely observed during the day. It is omnivorous consuming insects, small mammals, reptiles, carrion and plant maters. It is monogamous with mating taking place in late November. Aſter a gestation period of 52 to 65 days 3 to 6 young are born weighing 50 to 100 grams each. They suckle for 6 to 8 weeks and become adult at an age of one. Lifespan is 7 years in the wild and 12 years in captivity.

Distribution: This species is found in small numbers in dry habitats of deserts and semi-desert areas of central Iran with sparse vegetation.

Family: Canidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 50-90 cm, T 30-50 cm, SH 35-45 cm, and W 2.5-10 kg. Males and females are similar. The species has a medium sized body with a slender muzzle, long, pointed ears, and a long, bushy, white-tipped tail. The coat varies from brownish gray or reddish-brown to light cream. The ventral is lighter than the dorsal and is creamy in color. The backs of the ears are usually black or brown. The color of lips, sides of the face and cheek is white and a black ‘tear-line’ runs from the eyes to the mouth.

Biological characteristic: The species is solitary except during the breeding season. Although nocturnal, it can be observed during the day. As an omnivorous animal it feeds on mammals, small reptiles, birds, their eggs and chicks, insects, worms, carrion and plant maters. It is monogamous and breeding takes place in early winter. The gestation period is 51 to 53 days and aſter which 4 to 7, sometimes 10 cubs are born that weigh 80 to 150 gr. Cubs are born with velvety fur which is gray in color and suckle for 7 to 9 weeks by their mother. They mature at the age of one. Maximum lifespan is 9 years in the wild but typically under 5 and in captivity they live up to 15 years.

Distribution: This species lives in almost all habitats except very dense forests and true deserts. The common fox is distributed in most areas of Iran including agricultural fields and urban areas and is relatively abundant.

Family: Felidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 170-220 cm (males), 140-180 cm (females); T 70-105 cm; W 160-190 kg (males), 110-120 kg (females). Generally smaller than African lion with shorter limbs and a stockier body. Body color is light tawny, though reddish-brown, sandy or cinnamon-gray and even black individuals reported from Iran. Mane is scantier and does not extends on to the forehead, though runs the length of the abdomen and flanks. Usually mane hair is rusty-brown with an admixture of blackish and white hair. Coat thicker with a longer tail tassel. A pronounced belly fold runs the length of belly between the front and hind legs, which is more visible in lionesses.

Biological characteristic: Hunt collaboratively. Main prey was the wild boar, however, domesticated animals like catles, water buffaloes and dogs were also consumed. Probably fed on onager, Mesopotamian fallow deer and gazzeles in older times. Highly social animals, living in units called prides that is smaller than those of African lion. Females give birth to 1 – 6 young aſter a gestation period of about 109 day. May live up to 21 years.

Distribution: An inhabitant of dense reed-beds, savanna-type bush, riparian forests (Khuzestan) and the coastal plains, as well as oak and pistachio-almond forests of the Zagros Mts. A very common species till 18th century. Widespread in Iran in the far remote past, covered a very significant part of the country throughout the western half, reaching Tehran in the north and Makran in south east. However in last two centuries they were confined to south west provinces of Khuzestan, Fars and Bushehr.

Family: Felidae

Morphological characteristic: Total length, 270-295 cm (males), 240-260 cm (females); W: 170-240 kg (males), 85-135 kg (females). Largest Felid of Iran with a distinct striped pattern with the stripes more numerous and closer set. Color of stripes an admixture of brown or cinnamon shades. The ground colour richer, darker red, with a tendency to turn brown. Seasonal color dimorphism prominent; winter coat paler than summer coat with a less distinct pattern. The fur was long especially along the top of the neck (mane), on the cheeks (whiskers), on the sides of the face, and along the belly and flanks. The tiger in Iran has been assigned to the Caspian tiger subspecies P.t.virgata that includes P.t.altaica according to new molecular data.

Biological characteristic: A variety of hunting patterns and tactics were used to kill different prey. Main prey was the wild boar, however, occasionally caught roe deer, Caspian red deer, Urial, goitered gazelle, golden jackal, jungle cat and various domestic animals, including cattle, horse, ass, water buffalo, camel and dog. It’s largely a solitary species with social relations confined to a limited period of mating courtship and mother and cubs living together for 2 or 3 years. Reported to reproduce once every 2 to 3 years, bearing 2 to 4 cubs per liter. Gestation averages three and a half months with no particular breeding season been documented. During winter in the plains, during summer in the mountains.

Distribution: Confined to riparian and lowland forests, reed-beds, wetlands and alpine forests of Alborz range up to 1800 m a.s.l. A common species till 20th century. Widely distributed through northern Iran and was recorded from Khorasan-e-Razavi, North Khorasan, Golestan, Mazandaran, Guilan and East Azarbaijan provinces and most probably was occurred in Ardabil and West Azarbaijan provinces in older times. Now they are extinct in Iran.

Asiatic Black Bear – Ursus thibetanus

Family: Ursidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 110-190 cm, T 7-10 cm, SH 70-100 cm, W    40-140 and    60-200 kg. This bear is smaller than the brown bear. The head is large, eyes are small and tail very short. The ears are rather large, rounded and wide-set. The body is covered with dense and shiny black fur and there is a white or cream V-shaped mark on the chest. A rare brown phase is sometimes observed. The species is plantigrade with 5 toes on both fore and hind feet. Long and sharp claws enable the black bear to climb trees.

Biological characteristic: This species is solitary and appears non-territorial. It is mainly nocturnal and uses caves, holes and crevices under rocks as dens. It is very good tree climber. It is omnivorous but mainly feeds on plant mater, particularly wild fruits (Pistachio, Olive, Mazari palm and Ziziphus spp), cultivated fruit (Date palm) and other plant materials such as grasses and Buds. It will feed on insects, especially wasps, small mammals and carrion and will attack livestock during periods of food scarcity. Home ranges overlap extensively, but females and young males avoid productive areas favored by adult males. Hibernation of this species in Iran needs to be studied, because bears are not observed during winter in some areas but are active in others. Mating takes place in late spring and early summer and as with the brown bear, delayed implantation is observed. Gestation is 6 to 7 month in captivity. Usually 1 to 3 cubs are born in winter which are weaned up to 1.5 month aſter they leave the den. They stay with their mother for two years and then become independent. Females can reproduce when they are 3 years old. Lifespan is 36 years in captivity.

Distribution: This species is found in arid mountainous areas mainly covered with open forests and scattered woodlands such as pistachio, olive, amygdales, Mazari palm and Ziziphus. It is found in southeastern Iran in Kerman, Hormozgan and Sistan and Baluchestan provinces in low numbers. Iran contains the westernmost global population of the Asiatic black bear.

Family: Ursidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 140-250 cm, T 6-14 cm, SH 90-110 cm, and W 100-250 kg. This is the largest carnivore in Iran. Male and female are similar but the male is conspicuously larger and heavier. The head is large, ears are small and round, eyes are small and the tail is very short. The body is covered with a dense fur that is usually brown and sometimes darker or lighter. Cubs are dark brown in color and sometimes have a lighter spot, like the black bear, on the chest. It is plantigrade, with 5 toes with long and strong nails on fore and hind feet.

Biological characteristic: This species is solitary but cubs accompany their mother for up to 3 years. It is mainly nocturnal but can be also observed during the day. As it gets colder in winter and food resources become less abundant, the brown bear hibernates in a cave. Its sense of sight is very poor compared with its sense of smell. It is an omnivorous animal but plant mater comprises a major part of its diets though it also feeds on fish, small and big vertebrates, insects, carrion, domestic animals and garbage. It is polygamous and copulation takes place in early summer. The gestation period is prolonged by delayed implantation and lasts for 6 to 7, and sometimes 9, months. Usually 1 to 3 cubs, rarely up to 6, are born during winter hibernation, weighing 300 to 500 grams. Newborn cubs are very immature and aſter three months of suckling their weight reaches 15 kg. Young depend on their mother for 2 to 3 years and become adult at the age of 4 to 5. Longevity in nature is 25 to 30 years but it can live up to 47 years in captivity.

Distribution: The brown bear lives in forested and mountainous habitats. It is distributed in most mountainous forested areas of Alborz, Zagros, Hyrcanian and Arasbaran and it is relatively rare throughout its range.

Family: Felidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 110 – 130 cm, T 60 – 80 cm, SH 60 – 80 cm, and W 20 to 40 kg. Males and females are similar in appearance. The head is small, the limbs are long and slender, the waist is narrow and the chest is wide. The tail is long and thick and the ears are small and round. Cheetahs are tan in color with black spots over the body with a white ventral. Black tear lines run from the corner of the eye to the mouth. The cheetah is distinguished from other felids by non-retractable claws and the unmistakable streamlined body that enables the animal to achieve speeds of up to 105 km/h making it the fastest terrestrial mammal.

Biological characteristic: The cheetah is most active during mornings and evenings. It is the only social felid in Iran. Males form small groups that hunt and seek mates together. Females are also usually observed with their cubs. Animals normally move long distances in search of suitable food. A pair of males in Yazd province, used 1737 km² in 5 months based on radio tracking. It seems that wild sheep are the major prey in Iran, followed by wild goat, Chinkara, Goitered gazelle, and sometimes small mammals and birds. Hares are the main prey of young adults. Mating usually takes place usually in the middle of winter and aſter a gestation period of 90 to 98 days, 1 to 4 cubs are born. Cubs are born with closed eyes and soſt grey fur and aſter 4-11 days their eyes open. They become independent at the age of 17 to 18 months and are able to breed at 2 to 3 years. Lifespan of wild animals can be up to 14 years and 21 years in captivity. The cheetah has no known predator but attacked by Leopards and possibly striped hyenas for food.

Distribution: Cheetahs are found in desert and semi desert habitats in central areas of Iran especially in Yazd, Semnan, Esfahan, Kerman, North Khorasan, and Khorasan Razavi provinces. The species is found most oſten in arid or semi-arid rolling hills and at the foot of mountain ranges and rarely in plains. At the present time fewer than 100 cheetahs exist in Iran and it is extinct in other parts of Asia.

Family: Felidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 110-180 cm, T 60-100 cm, SH 45-78 cm and W 35-90 kg. The leopard has a large and muscular body, wide head and short legs with strong paws. The fur is soſt and short, light buff in color which becomes lighter under the belly and covered with spots, or rosettes.

Biological characteristic: The species is active mainly from dusk to dawn. Adults are solitary with the territories of each male overlapping those of several females. Territories are strongly defended and marked on the boundaries by scrapes on the ground, scratches on the trees and faeces and urine. Individuals range widely with a collard male in Yazd province using 626 km2 over 10 months. The major prey species are wild goat and wild sheep, in addition to wild boar, different deer species, gazelles, small mammals, birds and even insects. In times of prey shortage, a leopard might attack domestic animals and shepherd dogs as well. The species usually mates in February and aſter a gestation period of 90-106 days, 1 to 4 cubs are born; though rarely more than 2 cubs are raised successfully. Cubs remain with their mother until they are 12 to 18 months old and remain together for several months aſterwards. Longevity is 14 to 19 years in the wild and 23 years in captivity.

Distribution: The leopard is a very adaptable species and inhabits diverse habitats over much of the country between 200 to 4000 meters a.s.l such as mountains, steppes, forests and deserts. Since, extensive usage of camera traps in recent years, new evidence on leopard has been found in unknown areas (e.g. Naybandan Wildlife Refuge in Yazd, and Bashagard in Hormozgan province). Although, the species has a wide distribution in Iran, but it has a low abundance. In Bamu National Park, six adult leopards were identified and a density of 1.87 leopards in 100 km2 was estimated.

Family: Felidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 80 – 130 cm, T 12 – 19 cm, SH 50 – 75 cm and W 11 – 29 kg. Limbs are long with large webbed and furred paws that enable the animal to move easily on snow. Long hairs on the soles of the paws act as insulators and are an adaptation for winter life. The dorsal fur is grayish-brown and dull white on the ventral. The fur is almost always marked with black spots that sometimes appear as a band on the waist. The tail is very short with an all-black tip. A black tuſt of hair, about 4 cm long, is found on the tips of its ears.

Biological characteristic: The lynx is a secretive, solitary and crepuscular species. The territory of each male overlaps with territories of several females. Prey consists of small to medium-sized ungulates, specially roe deer and juveniles of red deer, wild goat, wild sheep and wild boar. Ungulates are especially important prey in winter, when snow elevates vulnerability to predation. In spring and summer, lynx mostly feeds on hares, small rodents, squirrels and birds. Mating takes place in winter and aſter a gestation period of 67 to 74 days, 1 to 4 kittens are born. Kittens weigh 250 to 430 grams and are blind at birth. Spots on the body are not visible until 11 weeks of age. They are fully weaned at the age of 5 to 6 months and become independent from their mothers at 10 months of age. Females first breed at the age of 20 to 24 months whereas males start breeding at 30 months of age. Longevity of wild lynx is up to 17 years and 25 years in captivity.

Distribution: The species inhabits mountain and forest habitats and is distributed at low abundance in northern, northwestern and western parts of the country in the Alborz and Zagros mountain ranges.

Family: Felidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 55 – 90 cm, T 22 – 34 cm, SH 40 – 50 cm, and W 8 – 18 kg. Male and female are similar in appearance but the latter is relatively smaller. The caracal is a slender, yet muscular cat with long, triangular ears that have highly developed apical black tuſts (almost 6 cm). The limbs are long and slender, the tail is medium without a black tip and the footpads are wide. The pelage is uniform light sandy brown to a darker red-brown on the back. Ventral and areas around the eyes and under the chin are white. It is one of few species of cats that has no pattern or spots on the body; most likely an adaptation for desert life.

Biological characteristic: The caracal is solitary and mainly crepuscular. It preys on small mammals, particularly rodents, but is also skillful in catching birds and can kill larger mammals even up to the size of Chinkara (Gazella bennetii). The species can get enough water from its prey carcass. It is a monogamous species, mating in winter and aſter a gestation period of 68 to 81 days 1 to 6 (usually 2 to 3) kittens are born. Kittens weigh 200 to 250 gr and their eyes open aſter 4 to 10 days. Longevity is up to 15 years in the wild and 19 years in captivity.

Distribution: This cat inhabits deserts, steppes, and even mountain woodlands. In Iran it is distributed in much of the central part of the country and some parts of the west, southeast and northeast. It is most abundant in central desert areas and in recent years has been more frequently observed in Esfahan, Semnan and Yazd provinces.

Pallas’s cat, Manul – Otocolobus manul

Family: Felidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 45 – 62 cm, T 20 – 31 cm, SH 25 – 28 cm and W 2.5 – 4.5 kg. Pelage coloration in this cat varies from silver-gray to red with white tipped hairs which gives the animal a silver appearance. It has short black-banded limbs and a short, thick and black-tipped tail. There are remarkable small black spots on the forehead. Like the sand cat, its bullae ossae (tympanic bullae) are enlarged for enhanced hearing, used for finding burrowing rodents. Hairs on the tail and ventral are twice the length of those on the body and flanks, an adaptation to cold winters. It was formerly thought that the fluffy manuls are ancestors of the Persian cats, which is incorrect.

Biological characteristic: The Manul is solitary. Its preferred prey is the Afghan pika though it also consumes hares, rodents, chukars and invertebrates. It buries its scat under soil. The species is poorly adapted for running and when threatened, freezes and flatens itself against the ground. Mating usually takes place during winter and gestation period lasts 66 to 75 days and 2 to 8 (usually 2 to 4) kittens are born per liter. At 2 months age, they weigh 500 to 600 grams and resemble adults in appearance but mature at 9-10 months. Longevity is 11.5 years in captivity. Known predators include large eagles, red fox and domestic dogs.

Distribution: The manul lives in mountain and high rocky habitats in the Alborz ranges and arid mountains in central Iran. Sporadic reports from central and eastern provinces have also been confirmed. It seems that the manul occurs in low-density in Iran.

Family: Felidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 50-80 cm, T 25-35 cm, SH 30-40 cm and W 3-6 kg. The wild cat has a long and bushy tail with widened tip that is usually black; short muzzle, large eyes, large triangular shaped ears and long, slender fore and hind feet. The body colour is variable ranging from brown to grey. Most wild cats in Iran have well-pronounced spots on their body. The species is considered as the ancestor of the domestic cat and can interbreed with it. The body is larger than that of the domestic cat and has more spots.

Biological characteristic: Although preferring wetter areas, the species can survive in dry deserts. It typically lives solitarily and is mostly nocturnal and secretive. The species feeds mainly on rodents but occasionally preys on birds, frogs, insects, poultry and rarely livestock. It breeds in winter and aſter a gestation period of 58 to 62 days, give birth 2 to 4, rarely 8 kittens. Kittens weigh 80-120 grams and their eyes open aſter 9-11 days. They become independent at the age of 5 to 10 months and sexually mature in 9 to 12 months. The lifespan is 11 in the wild and up to 15 years in captivity. Known predators include larger felids, golden eagles and domestic dogs.

Distribution: The wild cat lives in forests, mountains, steppes, deserts, hills and even in the vicinity of human habitations. It is found in all provinces of the country, except the Hyrcanian forests of Northern Iran.

Family: Felidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 39-57 cm, T 28-35 cm, SH 24-30 cm and W 1.3-3.4 kg. Male and female are similar in appearance with pale sandy to yellow fur over most of the body, with pallid bars which are sometimes hardly visible, and white on the chin and ventral. There are 2 to 3 black bands on the black tipped tail. Two reddish lines run across the cheeks from the outer corners of the eyes. The sand cat is distinct from other Asian cats in having long hairs growing between their toes that create a cushion of fur under the footpads, helping to insulate them while moving over hot and loose sand. Ears are large and widely spaced and give the animal an enhanced sense of hearing for finding sparse prey even under the ground. They stalk close to the ground and sometimes even jump from this position.

Biological characteristic: The sand cat is well adapted to harsh sandy desert environments. It is solitary and mainly nocturnal coming out aſter dusk to hunt rodents, hares, birds, reptiles and even insects and can survive without daily access to water. Mating takes place in winter and aſter a gestation period of 59 to 67 days, 2 to 4 kittens are born. The kittens weigh 40 to 80 grams at birth. They grow rapidly and wean at 6 to 8 months of age. Sand cats become fully independent by the end of their first year, and reach sexual maturity not long aſter. They can live up to 14 years in captivity.

Distribution: It has been reported only from few places in Iran from Semnan, Esfahan, Yazd, South Khorasan and Sistan and Baluchestan provinces.

Family: Felidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 55 – 94 cm, T 20 – 31 cm, SH 35 – 40 cm and W 5 – 12 kg. The jungle cat is generally larger than the wildcat (Felis silvestris). Its pelage coloration varies from grey to brownish-red with no distinctive marking on the body, except for occasional dark bands or spots on the limbs. Two to three black rings are visible at the tail tip.

Biological characteristic: The jungle cat is generally solitary and unlike many other cats, is mainly diurnal being mostly active during early morning and late aſternoon. It feeds mainly on small animals weighing less than 1 kg, particularly rodents as well as birds and frogs though occasionally it attacks small ungulates. Mating usually takes place during winter and aſter a gestation period of 63 to 66 days, 1 to 6 cubs (usually 3) are born. Their eyes open aſter 10 to 13 days and weaning occurs aſter 100 days. They become independent at 8 to 9 months and live up to 20 years in captivity. They can easily be trained and domesticated.

Distribution: Although known as the “swamp lynx”, it also occurs in scrublands and forests near water and even in plains, steppes and dry forests. Occasionally it inhabits farmlands and villages. The Jungle cat usually occurs at elevations lower than 1000 m., a.s.l. Tis highly adaptable cat exists throughout most of the country but avoids deserts and is more abundant in the northern provinces of Iran.

Family: Hyaenidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 112-184 cm, T 25-47 cm, SH 60-94 cm, and W 25-55 kg. Males and females are similar. The head and jaws are large with strong teeth that can crush the femur of a donkey. The ears are long and narrow with bluntly pointed tips. The neck is bent downwards, the forelimbs are longer and stronger than the hind limbs, and the tail is medium in length and covered with long hair. A dense, tall mane extends from the back of the head to the beginning of the tail. The mane can be erected when the animal is in threatening position or in conflict and gives it a larger appearance. The pelage is creamy white to gray with black or dark brown stripes. The snout and around the eyes are black and there is a black patch on the throat. The hair on the back is long, dense and gray in color in winter. The animal is digitigrade with 4 toes on the front and hind legs. The animal moves the front and hind limb of each side of the body simultaneously while walking.

Biological characteristic: The Striped Hyena is generally solitary and nocturnal. It begins to be active aſter sunset and returns to underground burrows, natural caves or man-made crevices, by sunrise. Females may form social groups with liters of previous years to help raise new cubs. Remains of bones, horns, and hair, brought by animal are characteristic of hyena dens that may have several entrances. Hyenas mainly feed on old carcasses but will also eat bird eggs, tortoises, rodents, small reptiles, insects, and fruits. With the help of its acute sense of smell it can detect decaying carcasses from several kilometers. Breeding takes place throughout the year. Aſter a gestation period of 90 to 92 days, 1 to 5 (normally 2 to 3) young are born weighing 700 gr. Aſter 5 to 8 days their eyes open and nursing continues for 2.5 to 3 months. Cubs reach maturity at 2 to 3 years of age. The Striped Hyena can live up to 24 years in captivity. It is a quiet animal and is seldom vocal. When threatened it snarls and growls.

Distribution: The Striped Hyena is found in low numbers in different habitats such as deserts, steppes, and mountainous areas throughout the country, except for the north and northwestern parts of Iran. Recently, it has been reported from the northern parts of Golestan National Park.

Javan mongoose – Herpestes javanicus

Family: Herpestidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 22-46 cm, T 22-29 cm, HF 4.4-5.2 cm, E 2-2.5 cm and W 0.3-1 kg. Males and females are similar in appearance, but the male is somewhat bigger with a wider head. Morphologically it is similar to the Indian Grey Mongoose but can be distinguished from the later species by its smaller size and less dense hair. The head is elongated, ears are short, body is slender and legs are short. It is plantigrade with 5 toes on both front and hind legs. The soles of the front and hind feet are naked and dark in color. The color of the body and tail is grayish- brown spotted with small golden or olive dots. The fur under the chin and throat is creamy-buff. The eyes are relatively small and there is a brown ocular ring.

Biological characteristic: The Small Indian Mongoose is solitary and is diurnal. It can jump one meter high and is able to climb trees. It is an omnivore but over 80% of its diet consists of animals, especially insects. It will also consume small rodents, birds, bird eggs and chicks, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and fruits like dates. Aſter a gestation periods of 7 weeks, 2 to 4 blind young are born which weigh about 21 gr. They are covered with soſt, light grey hairs. Young are born before summer and their eyes open aſter 17 days. They become adult at 1 year of age and can live about 8 years in captivity.

Distribution: The species inhabits shrub lands, reed beds around wetlands, palm groves and orchards in tropical areas. It is found in high numbers in the Hawr Al Azim wetland, in the southwest of Iran.

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Indian Grey Mongoose – Herpestes edwardsii

Family: Herpestidae

Morphological characteristic: BL 32 to 48 cm, TL 30 to 45 cm, FL 6.5 to 8 cm, EL 1.5 to 2.5 cm and W 1.4 to 2 kg. Males are larger than females. The body is long and slender with a long tail covered with coarse hairs, ears are round and small, fore and hind limbs are short with long non-retractable and strong claws, the snout is elongated and pointed and the eyes are small. The body is covered with long and dense hairs which are light brown to red fawn on the back and lighter on the belly. The color of the tail is similar to the body and has a dark reddish tip.

Biological characteristic: The species usually lives alone or in pairs. Burrows can be found in a large range of setting from rocks and tree crevices to holes in the walls of ruined buildings. They rest in the burrow at night and start their activity during the day. Food is diverse, consisting of rodents, snakes, lizards, amphibians, birds, bird eggs, insects and even plant mater such as fruits. They are noted for killing snakes; protected by their long and dense hairs against snake bites. The Indian Grey Mongoose plays an important role in controlling agricultural pests such as rodents. It can produce 3 liters per year. Aſter a gestation period of 60 to 65 days, 2 to 4 young are born. The animals can live up to 11 years in captivity.

Distribution: The species inhabits grasslands and sparse woodlands of southern Iran extending north to Esfahan. Sometimes it is found in mountainous areas. Usually, it is found in gardens and groves close to villages. It is found in good numbers in southern Iran.

Family: Procyonidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 60-96 cm, T 20-40 cm, W 7-20 kg. A black mask covers the eyes extending to the cheeks. In addition, there are two white strips on the forehead. The tail is long with alternating black and white rings. The ears are triangular in shape. The species is digitigrade and there are 5 toes on the feet with long nails. The color of the body varies with season and geographic location and ranges from light gray to black.

Biological characteristic: The raccoon is nocturnal. Depending on food availability, it is solitary but can live in groups. Dens are placed in cavities of trees or crevices of rocks and sometimes in residential areas. It hibernates in the den during cold times of the year but body temperature and heart rate do not change much. It also remains in the den when the young are born while at other times of the year they only spend 1 or 2 days in the den. Senses of sight, smell and touch are strong, the third sense being concentrated in toes of the forefeet and muzzle. It swims well and can climb trees. The raccoon is extremely omnivorous and opportunistic, eating virtually all available edible items. It lives largely on anthropogenic foods. Longevity in captivity is 10 to 12 years and shorter than 6 years in the wild. Mating takes place from January to March and aſter a gestation period of 65 days 1 to 8 young (usually 2 to 5) are born. Males do not participate is raising the young. Males become sexually mature at the age of 2 and females at 1. The eyes and ears of newborn open 18 to 24 days aſter birth and at the age of 4 to 6 weeks they are able to stand up and walk around. They can climb trees when they are 7 weeks old. Young wean at the age of 2 to 3 month and can hunt at that time.

Distribution: The raccoon is not native to Iran. It was observed for the first time in Iran in 1991 at a village in Asalem area in Guilan Province. Now, it is distributed in Astara and Hashtpar of Guilan Province and especially in Lavandevil Wildlife Refuge and Lisar Protected Area. Although they can establish themselves in almost any habitat, raccoons prefer areas with deciduous trees close to water.

Family: Mustelidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 60-90 cm, T 35-55 cm, HF 9-13 cm, E 2 -3 cm, SH 30 cm, and W 5-17 kg. Males are larger than females. The body is long, slender and sinuous. The head is flattened with a short, blunt muzzle; the neck is ill defined. The vibrissae are long and sensitive, helping the animal locate prey. The eyes are small and ears low and inconspicuous, scarcely projecting above the fur. The tail is thickened and muscular at the base, tapering sharply to the tip. The limbs are very short with broad feet and extensive interdigital webs that together with the tail enable strong swimming. The hair is soſt and dense ranging in color from brown to grayish brown on the body and white under the chin and throat. These animals are called “water dog” or “water sable” in Farsi in some areas of the country.

Biological characteristic: The Eurasian otter is a semiaquatic mammal well adapted for life in both water and on land. Secretive which lives alone or in groups (mother with cubs) and usually hunts for prey in early morning or at night and spends the day in the holt- usually a burrow or hollow tree on the riverbank that can sometimes only be entered from underwater. It is a territorial species which defends its linear territory. The Eurasian otter’s diet consists of crustaceans, invertebrates, insects, amphibians, birds, mammals, though the main diet is fish. Aquatic prey is captured by pursuing it under water. Bigger prey is sometimes brought to the bank for consumption. Otters usually stay close to water but during dispersal might be seen in terrestrial habitats away from water. Males and females will breed at any time of the year; however, breeding in winter is more common. Gestation period is 61 to 63 days aſter which 1 to 5 (usually 2 to 3) pups are born. Pups stay in the holt for 8 weeks and remain dependent on their mother for about 12 months. Male otters become sexually mature at 18 and female at 24 months. Longevity is over 20 years in captivity.

Distribution: Habitat includes aquatic environments such as rivers, wetlands, and lakes in northern and western provinces of the country.

Smooth-coated Otter – Lutrogale perspicillata

Family: Mustelidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 62-79 cm, T 40-50 cm, HF 13-15 cm, and W 7-11 kg. Morphologically very similar to the common otter, but smaller sized, with darker and smoother fur. The tail is thick and conical with the terminal half more flattened and tapered compared to the cylindrical tail of the common otter. The fur is dark chocolate brown with a gray throat and somewhat lighter under parts. Western populations (Iran and Iraq) are darker than eastern populations (Pakistan to Southeast Asia) and thus sometimes called the “black otter”.

Biological characteristic: A diurnal and social animal. Group size changes in different months and seasons. Main prey is fish but also include amphibians and, invertebrates such as crabs and insects. Mating is seasonal. Gestation 60-63 days and liter size 1-5. Lifespan is up to 20 years in captivity.

Distribution: Smooth-coated otters are found in rivers, wetlands, and estuaries. So far one specimen and two skins have been collected from the Hawr Al Azim wetland with additional unconfirmed reports from the Shadegan wetland and Arvand River.

Family: Mustelidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 40-54 cm, T 22-30 cm, HF 8-9 cm, E 3-5 cm, and W 1.1-2.3 kg. The stone marten is a cat-size mustelid with fur ranging in color from dark brown to pale grayish brown. There is a wide white patch that starts from the chin and continues under the neck to the throat and then forks down and continues towards the forelimbs. Dorsal fur in young animals is covered with grey hairs. The stone marten has a slender body with a long and bushy tail and naked feet. The tail is longer and the pelt coarser than their close relative the pine marten, Martes martes. When the animal runs, the hind feet land in the same spot as the front feet.

Biological characteristic: The stone marten is primarily solitary, with the exception of mothers with young. It is territorial, scent marking the territory boundaries. It is a nocturnal species, except during the mating season when they can frequently be seen during the day. Stone martens are agile, very active, and can easily climb trees. The species is omnivorous preying on small mammals, insects, small birds, and bird eggs. Variety of plant mater, especially fruits, is a major part of the summer diet. When food is scare it will feed on carrion. Mating takes place in midsummer, but implantation does not occur until 230 to 275 days later, and one month aſter implantation, 1 to 8 (usually 3 to 4) blind and hairless young are born. Maximum life span in the wild is 10 years but in captivity this species might live up to 18 years.

Distribution: Stone martens prefer open deciduous forest and rock outcroppings in mountainous habitats. They can be found at elevations up to 4000 m during summer months. They are found in all mountainous parts of the country and avoid plains and desert areas.

Family: Mustelidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 42-52 cm, T 16 -28 cm, HF 8-9 cm, SH 15 cm, and W 0.5-2 kg. Males are slightly larger than females. The fur is usually dark brown with soſt dense hairs that grow longer and silkier during winter months. Complete molt occurs only once a year. The tail is long and bushy and ears are large and triangular in shape. The pine marten is larger than the stone marten and marked with a large creamy orange throat patch. Martens are the only mustelids with semi-retractable claws that enable them to climb trees with skill. They are also quick runners on the ground.

Biological characteristic: The pine marten is usually solitary and mostly active during dusk and at night. For most of the year the diet consist of small mammals but seasonally can include frogs, birds, eggs, chicks, insects, fruits, and honey. A nest is built under bushes or in tree holes. The species is territorial and scent-marks the boundaries of its territory. Mating and fertilization take place in summer followed by a period of delayed implantation that lasts 165 to 210 days. Parturition occurs in spring, one month aſter implantation, producing 1 to 6 young (usually 3). At birth, young weigh about 30 gr. They may begin dispersing aſter 6 month. Longevity is 5 years in the wild, while in captivity; the pine marten can live up to 18 years.

Distribution: Their habitat preference is for well-wooded areas, oſten preferring old growth forests though they can be found in shrub lands and grasslands. The species has been reported from the forested mountains of Gorgan and Golestan national park in Golestan and Fouman and Kheyroud forest in Guilan provinces. There are also some reports from the mountainous areas south of Tonekabon. It is most probable that the species inhabits all undisturbed Hyrcanian forests of northern Iran.

Family: Mustelidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 14-43 cm, T 3-13 cm, HF 2.5-3.5 cm, E 1-1.5 cm and W 35-160 gr. The least weasel is the smallest carnivore in Iran with a long, slender body, a long neck, narrow head and short limbs. It has large black eyes and large, round ears. It is plantigrade with 5 toes with sharp claws. Fur color is chocolate brown to light brown on the back and white with brown spots on the ventral. The fur on the back becomes lighter, and even sometimes white, in colder parts of western and northwestern Iran during winter.

Biological characteristic: Males and females live apart except during the breeding season. The home range of one male encompasses multiple female ranges. Least weasels are very active, both day and night. They can easily climb trees and swim. Diet consists of small mammals, bird eggs and chicks, reptiles, amphibians, insects and small domestic animals such as hen, rooster and pigeons. They watch the movement of their prey carefully before attacking, killing it with a bite to the neck. Breeding can occur throughout the year, but most commonly in spring and summer. Males fight over females for mating access. When food is abundant, females may breed more than once a year. Gestation lasts 34 to 37 days aſter which 4 to 7, sometimes 10, naked and blind kits are born weighing 1 to 2.3 gr. They gain a coat of downy white fur at the age of 4 days. Open their eyes aſter 26 to 30 days and nurse up to 60 days. They become independent and mature at the age of 3 to 4 months. Longevity in the wild is 3 years but they can live up to 10 years in captivity.

Distribution: Least weasels can survive in a wide variety of habitats, including open forests, farmlands, meadows, prairies, steppes, and semi-deserts. They are mainly distributed in the northern and western parts of the country in relatively good numbers.

Marbled Polecat – Vormela peregusna

Family: Mustelidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 29-38 cm, T 15-22 cm, HF 3-4.5 cm, E 1.7-2.7 cm, and W 400-700 gr. Males are larger than females. The muzzle is short and ears are noticeably large with white margins. The tail is long, limbs are short, and claws are long and strong. The fur is short on the body but longer on the tail. Black and white mark the face, with a black stripe across the eyes and white markings around the mouth. The pelage is dark brown on the dorsal, ventral, and on limbs and back of body and the neck mottled with irregular yellowish or cream spots and bands. The tail is dark brown with yellowish band in the mid-region.

Biological characteristic: The marbled polecat is solitary and secretive which is mainly active in early morning and evenings. It moves extensively through its home range and is usually very aggressive towards conspecifics. When alarmed, marbled polecats rise up on their legs. Their eyesight is weak and the species relies mainly on their well-developed sense of smell. Marbled polecats dig with their forelegs while pushing out the dirt with their chin and hind legs. They will use their teeth to pull out obstacles such as roots. They mainly feed on rodents and birds, eggs, reptiles, frogs, insects as well as grass and fruit. Sometimes, they use rodent burrows. Delayed implantation allows birth of cubs to be synchronized with favorable conditions, such as when prey is abundant. Liter size ranges from 4 to 8 cubs and only females care for the young. Cubs open their eyes at around 38-40 days, are weaned aſter 50-54 days, and leave their mother at 61-68 days. Females sexually mature at 3 months, males typically aſter first year. Life span is 9 years in captivity.

Distribution: Marbled polecats are found in open desert, semi-desert, and steppe areas and avoid mountainous regions. They have been also sighted in cultivated lands. These animals have been reported in northern, western, and also some parts of eastern Iran.

Family: Mustelidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 56-90 cm, T 15-20 cm, HF 9-11 cm, E 3-5.5 cm, SH 30 cm, and W 10-16 kg. The Eurasian badger is powerfully built with a small head, short and thick tail, narrow snout, small but quite visible ears, short neck, and short strong limbs. The bottoms of the feet are covered with soſt hairs. The claws on the forelimbs are strong, elongated and have an obtuse end, which assists in digging. The fur on the back and flanks is long and coarse, generally silvery-gray in color. The belly and legs are black. Two black bands pass along the head, starting from the upper lip and passing upwards to the base of the ears. A wide white band extends between the two dark bands, from the nose tip through the forehead and crown.

Biological characteristic: Eurasian badgers live in social groups, or clans, of 4 to 12 adult individuals. Clans oſten consist of a dominant male, a dominant female, and their offspring. The dominant pair are generally the only individuals that successfully produce cubs, although all or most of the females oſten mate with the dominant male. They are secretive and nocturnal but sometimes get out of their set for sunbathe or hunt during the day. Badgers inhabit sets, or systems of interlocking tunnels with nest chambers, toilets, and several entrances, that are inhabited for generations and continuously expanded. Set chambers are frequently lined with grass, straw, leaves, or mosses and are well suited for hibernation. Badgers eat an extremely wide variety of foods including insects, other invertebrates, small mammals and reptiles, fruits and other plant mater, and carrion. Earthworms constitute the main prey items in many populations. They usually walk calmly except when in danger or threatened they can run fast. Badgers are able to stand and defend themselves fiercely with their strong teeth and claws. Aſter mating, delayed implantation might occur for 3 to 10 month. Seven weeks aſter implantation 2 to 6 cubs are born. Their eyes open aſter one month and begin weaning at 2.5 month. Many badgers, especially females, never leave their family group. Longevity is 14 years in the wild and up to 16 years in captivity.

Distribution: Lives in forest, mountain, shrub land, steppes and semi-desert and also in farmland and agricultural fields and is relatively rare.

Honey Badger (Ratel) – Mellivora capensis

Family: Mustelidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 55-80 cm, T 16-23 cm, SH 23-28 cm, and W 5.5-14 kg. Males are larger than females. The most distinguishing characteristic of the species is that contrary to other animals, the upper side of the body is lighter than lower. The body is black except for a large white band that covers the upper body, beginning at the top of the heads and extending to the base of the tails. The color of the upper band becomes darker with age. The hair is coarse and longer on hind legs and tail. Honey badgers are well adapted to their digging life style and have a powerful, stocky build, with no external ears. Fore claws may reach 40 mm in length.

Biological characteristic: Although mostly solitary, the honey badger may live in small groups of up to 3 individuals. It is a very secretive animal that actively moves throughout its home range at night. As suggested by their common and scientific names, honey badgers have always been associated with bees. These animals in Africa are symbiotic with honey-guide birds (Prodotiscus spp.) that, unable to obtain honey by itself guides the badger to the bee nest by singing. The badger is attracted to the song, locates the hive and breaks the hive open with its paws and disperses the bees allowing both badger and bird to feed on honey. The honey badger is omnivorous, feeding on reptiles, rodents, birds, and insects as well as, occasionally, on carrion, fruits, roots, and plant seeds. There may be delayed implantation and aſter a gestation period of 6-8 weeks 1, and rarely 2, cubs are born. They live 5 to 8 years in the wild and about 18 years in captivity.

Distribution: The honey badger inhabits a variety of temperate deciduous forests and grasslands and avoids extremely dry, warm and dense areas. It is reported from south west Iran up to Yazd province and also parts of Golestan province.

Family: Phocidae

Morphological characteristic: BL is about 140-150 cm and W 50-70 kg. It is the smallest seal in the world and is the only mammal inhabiting the Caspian Sea. The body is torpedo shape, the eyes are relatively large and the ears very small. The whiskers are thick and long and there are 5 fingers contained within the fore and rear flippers. The body is covered with short hairs (which change color with season and age) and faint spots on the upper parts of the body. With increasing age, as the color of the body becomes whiter, these spots become more numerous and darker. Caspian seals aren’t quick on land but are fast swimmers with the help of their rear flippers. It can stay underwater for 15 to 30 minutes before surfacing to breathe.

Biological characteristic: Males and females live together in mixed-sex groups and migrate regularly driven by changes in water temperature. They spend summers in the southern parts of the Caspian Sea along the Iranian coastlines and in autumn migrate to the northern waters of the Russian coast. Their prey consists of small fish and mollusks. Caspian seals are dependent for reproduction on winter ice, which covers the shallow northern Caspian Sea between January and March. One or two pups are born aſter a gestation period of 11 months inside dens created by their mother inside the ice. Pups are protected from the cold by a white lanugo coat and weigh between 2.5 and 3 kg. They are nursed on milk with a high fat content (12%) for about one month to gain weight and develop blubber. Both sexes become sexually mature at around 6 years of age. Wolves (Canis lupus) and sea eagles (Haliaeetus spp.) prey on pups.

Distribution: This species lives at low densities only in the Caspian Sea and its associated rivers.

Perissodactyla mammals of Iran

Asiatic Wild Ass – Equus hemionus

Family: Equidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 200-250 cm, T 30-55 cm, SH 110 to 142 cm, E 17-20 cm and W 150-260 kg. This species is very similar to donkey, having long, narrow and pointed ears. Dorsal color is yellowish-brown or orange and sides and the rumps, flanks, and venter of the animal are white. Males are somewhat darker than females. Moults in the spring. There is a short and black mane on the neck and a distinctive dark brown stripe runs along the neck and backbone reaching the tail. There is a small dark patch on inner side of the femurs.

Biological characteristic: Onagers mostly are diurnal but in some areas are active during night due to harassment by man. They are gregarious animal that live in small herds (10-20 animals). Females and foals live in separate groups than males. This animal is faster than horses and donkeys and could run long distances with a speed of 50 km per hour. They have acute senses of sight, smelling and hearing. They feed on plants of steppes and semi- deserts of Iran like sage bush (Artemisia sp.) and need water. Breeding takes place in June and aſter a gestation period of one year usually one foal is born. The young weighs about 25 kg when born and could follow the mother immediately. They wean at 8 months of age and could breed when 3 years old. Female usually gives birth to a young every other year but sometimes may breed every year. Natural predators of onagars are leopards and sometimes wolves.

Distribution: Habitat includes steppes and semi-deserts in hills and open plains. It had wider distribution in Iran in the past and it could be found in almost all semi-deserts of the country. However, there are only two small populations in Touran National Park (about 200 animals) and Bahram Gour Protected Area (about 400 animals) in Semnan and Fars provinces, respectively.

Artiodactyla mammals of Iran

Family: Cervidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 160-260 cm, T 12-15 cm, SH 120-150 cm, and W 130-260 kg. Fore and hind limbs are long and the large body is covered with short grayish brown hair and color of rump-patch is yellow. Fawns have reddish-brown coat with white spots. Stags have long and branched antlers with added tines every year. In Iranian subspecies (C.e.maral) two brow tines are locally called “wolf killers”. Antlers are shed at the end of winter and start growing again in early spring. Antlers are 50 to 70 cm in length and tines are 7 to 20 cm. Antlers of old stags decrease in size when the stags are extremely old (more than 15 years).

Biological characteristic: Red deer is mainly nocturnal; feeding in open and treeless areas of the forest at night and moving to dense forest during the day. It is a ruminant herbivore. The senses of smell and hearing are strong and also can swim well. It is a social animal; mature deer usually stay in single-sex groups only mixing with females during breeding season. Different social classes are observed in a herd; identified by interaction of individuals with others using antlers and forelimbs. They feed on grasses, fruits, mushrooms and browse on trees and shrubs. Breeding starts in early fall, called rutting season, by rivalry among mature males leading to establishment of temporary harems that lasts few weeks. Gestation period is 33 to 34 weeks (about 8 months). Hind gives birth to 1 fawn weighing 8 to 15 kg which remain with their mother for more than a year. They mature at 1.5 years of age. Longevity is usually 13 to 15 years, but could reach, in rare occasions, 22 years in nature. Main predators in Iran are wolves and leopards.

Distribution: Red deer usually lives in grasslands close to dense forested areas. Main habitat in Iran is forested areas of Caspian area (Hyrcanian Forests); yet not long ago were also found in Zagros forests in western parts of the country. Poaching and habitat destruction are main threatening factors.

Persian Fallow Deer – Dama mesopotamica

Family: Cervidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 130-200 cm, T 16-20 cm, SH 85-100 cm, and W 45-110 kg. Broad and branched antlers of males start growing at end the of first year. Numbers of points are correlated with age. Antlers are shed in winter and start growing in spring. Length of antlers and their branches are 50 to 70 cm and 7 to 20 cm respectively. Antlers in old males become shorter and sometimes show no branches. In summer, body is covered with reddish orange short hairs on the back and flanks. There are white spots on back and flanks which turns to white line on the later. These spots are invisible in winter coat. Body hair is longer in winter and is grey in color. Black hair on the upper side of the tail, white face pattern as well as palmation out near the top of the antlers in European fallow distinguishes it from Persian fallow deer.

Biological characteristic: Fallow deer becomes nocturnal when faced with human disturbance and starts its activity aſter sunset. It is a social herbivore and a ruminant mammal with acute senses of smell and sight. Adult males live in separate social groups which mix with females only during breeding season. Sometimes, oldest males live solitarily. Fallow deer is a good swimmer. Diet consists of grasses, fruits and foliage of trees and shrubs. Copulation takes place in early fall. During this period, rutting calls of males attracts females to the place where the male has established his small and temporary territory around rutting ditch. Conflicts between young males are also observed in this season. Gestation period is 8 months and 1 to 2 young are born. New born fawns weigh 3 to 4 kg and mother suckles them up to age of 9 months. It takes about 1.5 years to adulthood. Fallow deer in zoological collections have been known to live up to 20 years. Its natural predators in Iran are wolves, leopards and jungle cats (prey on fawns and subadults).

Distribution: The original habitats of Persian fallow deer in Iran were open landscapes with scattered trees and shrubs in Zagros Mountains in western Iran and woodlands in southwestern province of Khuzestan. However, habitat destruction and extensive hunting wiped out or severely reduced their populations. Now the small free remaining herds are scattered in woodlands along Karkheh and perhaps Dez, rivers. Presently, the majority of Persian fallow deer in Iran live on Ashk Island in Urmia Lake and several enclosures throughout the country.

Family: Cervidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 100-140 cm, T 1-3 cm, SH 60-80 cm, and W 15-25 kg. It is a small deer with a hunched-looking body since forelimbs are shorter than hind limbs. Tail is barely visible. Body is covered with short reddish brown hair in summer and reddish grey in winter. Antlers are long with 3 points, on the average, and are shed in winter. Their growth is completed by spring. Lengths of antlers are 15 to 23 cm and distance between their tips varies from 7 to 13 cm.

Biological characteristic: Roe deer is active during day and night. It is solitary in summer and both males and females establish territory. Territory is marked by excretions of facial glands. They establish small social groups only in winter. Roe deer is herbivore and ruminant. Senses of smell, hearing and sight are acute. It is a good swimmer. When alarmed performs long jumps but normally is calm in its habitat. It feeds on grass, fruits, mushrooms and browses on taller plants. They make special sound during breeding or bark when alarmed. Rutting takes place in summer or sometimes in fall. During courtship, when male chases female, the underneath vegetation is flattened, leaving behind an 8-shaped track called “roe rings”. Aſter copulation and a delayed implantation period of 4 months, total gestation period of 290 to 300 days (about 10 months), 1 to 3 fawns are born. Fawns weigh 1 to 1.5 kg and are suckled by their mothers around 3 months. Young female roe deer can begin reproduction at about 16 months of age. Fawns have longitudinal white spots and remain hidden among grasses or bushes, only standing up when their mother approaches them. Longevity of roe deer is about 7 years in the wild. Wolves, leopards and jungle cats are among its predators in Iran.

Distribution: Roe deer depends on forest habitats. It prefers forest communities at an early stage of succession (young forests) or forests between low lands and mountainous areas. Presently roe deer lives in Hyrcanian, Arasbaran in East Azarbaijan and Oak forests in Ouramanat and Javanroud areas in West of Iran.

Chinkara, Indian Gazelle – Gazella bennettii

Family: Bovidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 90-110 cm, T 15-20 cm, SH 55-65 cm, HL 32 cm and W 15-25 kg. It is smaller than Goitered Gazelle, with darker coloration. The fur color in eastern populations in winter is dark grayish sandy, oſten with a distinct brown band edging the white underparts; in summer it is reddish brown. The western populations are larger and noticeably lighter in color, and lack the dark mid-facial region of the eastern populations. Horns are rather parallel with tips sometimes turning in. Both sexes have horns albeit horns of males are longer. Tail is black in color, conspicuous against the white buttocks when raise in scape.

Biological characteristic: This gazelle is diurnal but sometimes could be observed feeding at nights. Although most individuals are seen alone, they can sometimes be spotted in groups of up to 4 individuals. They are well adapted to harsh arid environments and can get sufficient water from plants and dew. Mating takes place in fall (in northern population as in central Kavir) and gestation lasts about 170 day aſter which 1 or 2 calves are born. Southern population mate two mounts earlier. Newborns remain motionless for few days aſter birth. Females are able to mate few days aſter parturition; therefore, they may calve twice a year in suitable habitats. Young gazelles suckle for 5 months and they become adult at 20 months of age. Longevity is about 12 years. Their natural predators include cheetah, wolf and caracal.

Distribution: It lives in desert and semi-desert habitats. So far, they are reported from Semnan, Kerman, Hormozgan, South Khorasan, Fars, Yazd and Bushehr provinces. Also a captive population is kept in Shirahmad wildlife refuge in Khorasan Razavi. Total population is estimated around 2500 individuals for the country.

Family: Bovidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 95- 105 cm, T 15-20 cm, SH 52-61 cm and W 15-30 kg. This gazelle resembles G. benneti, but it is smaller. It is sexually dimorphic, with males being larger than females possessing longer horns. Horns of adult males are of medium length (22-29.4 cm) and thick, with prominent rings. Horns are bowed outwards with tips turned inward. The female horns are un-ringed and rather irregular in shape, short (8.4-15.3 cm) and have inwardly turned tips. The facial stripes are off-white, and have dark brown or black lower margins; the mid-facial stripe is medium to dark brown, usually with a blackish nose spot. There is a strong contrast between the dark (sandy-brown to gray-brown) tone of dorsum, flanks and upper part of haunches, and the lighter brown of the limbs. A dark brown or black flank-band separates the dark-toned dorsal color from the white underparts; a lighter, fawn colored streak is located above it.

Biological characteristic: Gazella gazella is gregarious, and exhibits various social units. Only a fraction of adult males hold territories at any time. Mountain gazelles are excellent runners and for several hundred meters reach a speed of 80 km/hr. When frightened they may jump to a height of 2.4 m (stoting) which is characteristic of the species. They mainly feed during the day but also during moonlight nights. When prosecuted by humans much of their activity, feeding included, occurs at night. They feed on Acacia leaves, grasses, forbs, shrubs and even plants that are known to be poisonous and not accepted by most herbivores. Females become adult at 18 months and males at 3 years, respectively. Mating takes place in autumn. Gestation lasts 180 days (6 months) aſter which usually one fawn is born weighing 2 to 3 kg. Only one instance of twins is reported. Before parturition the pregnant female leaves the herd and delivers in isolation. The suckling period lasts up to 3 months. This gazelle can breed twice a year. Longevity is about 13 years in captivity and less than 8 in the wild.

Distribution: Mountain gazelle lives in Acacia woodlands. It extends from valleys to foothills and even very steep (up to 45 degree) terrain. In Iran, it was first reported in 1993 from Farour Island in Persian Gulf, where population stands around 500 individuals presently.I am text block. Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Goitered Gazelle, Persian Gazelle – Gazella subgutturosa

Family: Bovidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 90-115 cm, T 16-20 cm, SH 70-80 cm and W 20-45 kg. Males have horns that can reach 25 to 45 cm in length. Black in color and sharply diverging, the horns form an “S” shaped, bending up backwards, and turning in at the tips. Females mostly lack horns but in western Iran females with short horns are observed. Males have a goiter like bulge on the throat during the mating season. Legs are long and tail is quite short. Fur is short and sandy in color during warm season and is replaced by thick and brownish fur in winter. The fur becomes lighter with increasing age.

Biological characteristic: Goitered gazelles are herbivorous and ruminant animals with acute senses of smell and sight. These gazelles are gregarious and usually occur in small groups, but herds may number in the hundreds or thousands. They usually graze in early mornings and late aſternoons and rest at mid-day in the shade of shrubs and bushes. But where they are heavily hunted, they become partly nocturnal. They are fast runners and choose a particular course for escape. Goitered gazelles undergo seasonal migrations throughout much of their range. Food consists of grasses, forbs, shrubs and sometimes agricultural products. Mating takes place in December or January when males gather females in their territory. Gestation lasts 5 to 6 months aſter which 2 to 3 calves are born. Newborns weigh about 3 kg and suckle their mother up to 5 months of age. They reach adulthood aſter about 2 years. Longevity in the wild is about 12 years. Natural predators include wolf, leopard, cheetah and caracal in Iran.

Distribution: Inhabits a wide range of semi-desert, steppe, bush lands and woodland habitats, usually preferring flat plains covered with Artemisia sp. In the past the species had a wide distribution in plains of Iran, however, due to poaching and habitat destruction has become extinct in non protected areas. The current population is estimated less than 20,000 in Iran.

Family: Bovidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 120-160 cm, T 15-20 cm, SH 70-100 cm and W 25-120 kg. Males have long scimitar shaped horns marked with annual growth rings that could reach 152 cm in length. Horns in females are short and do not exceed more than few centimeters. Body is stocky and muscular with brownish or yellowish gray fur. Generally, males are darker than females. Adult males have a beard and a black stripe running from the withers down the front of the shoulders merging with the black chest. They become pale with increasing age and at advanced age they are cream-white on the sides and flanks. There are black hairs on the front of their feet. The fur becomes paler in winter. Males have special sebaceous glands under the tail that become active in mating season.

Biological characteristic: Wild goat is a diurnal, ruminant herbivore. They are gregarious animals with acute senses of smell, sight and hearing. Females live with younger individuals in separate groups than adult males. These animals live in mountains and can climb precipitous rocky areas extremely well. In some areas they have limited altitudinal movements. Wild goats beat their feet on the ground and exhale air vehemently through their nostrils when threatened. Food consists of grasses, shrubs, tree leaves and foliage. They mate in fall and aſter a gestation period of 150 to 160 days, 1 to 2 kids are born. Kids usually weigh 3 to 4 kg and suckle for 4 to 5 months. They become adult aſter 2 to 3 years. Kids have soſt silky fur which is yellowish -grey, with dark hairs on the face and front of the feet. Horn length is shorter than ears in kids. Longevity is 12 to 15 years in captivity. Major predators include wolf, leopard and cheetah but birds of prey and hyenas could also feed on young goats.

Distribution: Wild goats are distributed in almost all mountainous and rocky areas of the country. However, populations are declining in many areas and in some, like Bisoton of Kermanshah, they have been wiped out due to habitat destruction, poaching and trapping.  Presently, total population in the country is estimated around 50,000 individuals.

Family: Bovidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 150 cm, T 15 cm, SH 70-100 cm and W 25-85 kg. Males have large horns that curl backwards behind their heads and taper off in a large spiral, coming to finish pointing back toward the head like a twisted leter C. The longest horn, which is a world record, belongs to a specimen from Golestan National Park measuring 113cm in length. Horns are triangular in cross section. Females have shorter compressed horns. Their fur on the back is short and sandy yellow in color, while in winter it is longer and brownish red. Lower side and rump are white. There are long white hairs which cover the base of the neck and chest. In some areas, males have grayish hairs on the base of the neck and chest and carry short horns; these rams are called “Morche”.

Biological characteristic: These are diurnal animals but sometimes become active at nights. They are herbivorous ruminants who have keen senses of sight and smell. They live in social groups composed of all adult males separate from groups of adult females and their young. Habitats include rolling hills and low mountainous areas. In some areas migration to warmer areas takes place during winter. They emit a “Fesh” like sound when feel danger to alarm other members of the group. Herds of rams and ewes mix in early fall where rams fight each other with their horns for dominance and mating rights without establishing territories. Gestation period is about 5 months aſter which 1 to 2 lambs are born. New born lambs weigh about 3 to 4 kg and are nursed by their mother for 4 to 5 months. They mature aſter 2 to 3 years. Longevity of wild sheep is about 13 years in nature. Natural predators include wolf, leopard and cheetah in Iran. However, birds of prey, hyaena and brown bear might prey on lambs.

Distribution: The species is distributed in hilly and mountainous areas of eastern Iran. However, their populations have declined in many areas due to habitat destruction, poaching, trapping, harassment by dogs and disconnection of populations. Golestan and Tandoreh National Parks are most well known habitats in the country for the species.

Armenian Wild Sheep – Ovis gmelini

Family: Bovidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 140 cm, SH 80 cm, and W 20-65 kg. Females are smaller than males. Horns of the males are shorter than the horns of male Urial Wild Sheep and have somewhat elliptical cross sections. The longest recorded horn, which is a record trophy originating from west Azarbaijan, is 89 cm in length. Horns curve in the same plane towards the neck. Hairs on the chest and throat are rough, short and range from brown to black in color. Females lack horns or have short and slightly curved horns. Males have a white or grey saddle patch in winter; thus they are called “alakamar” by local people.

Biological characteristic: They are diurnal but sometimes become active at nights. As ruminant herbivores, they have keen senses of sight and smell. Usually, they live in social groups. Adult males live in separate group than adult females and their young. Mating takes place in fall. Lambs, usually 2, are born in spring. Biological characters of this sheep are similar to Urial sheep.

Distribution: The species lives in mountains, foothills and rolling steppes of northwest extending along Zagros Mountains to southwest Iran. Populations have decreased in many areas due to habitat destruction, poaching, trapping and disconnection of populations. Presently, highest numbers of Armenian sheep are living on Kaboudan Island in Urmia Lake, Anguran, Bijar and Haſtad Gholeh Protected Areas.

Family: Suidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 100-185 cm, T 16-30 cm, SH 60-110 cm, and W 50-300 kg. Has a characteristic morphology with big body, large head and short and thick neck. Short hand and feet has four digit extended to hoofs but only middle toes reach to ground. Eyes are small. Muzzle is long and cylindrical with nostrils on its flat tip. Its shaggy long hair is brown to grey in color but is sometimes creamy yellow. The young have yellow and brown stripes. Canines, found in both upper and lower jaws, are used for defense and searching the soil for plant roots. Males have more developed canine teeth; visible as half-circle shaped tusks emerging from the mouth.

Biological characteristic: It is active in both night and day in safe areas but is merely nocturnal when safety is low. Sows and the young live in family groups while adult males live solitarily or in each others’ vicinity. They are omnivorous. Wild boar do not only eat plant roots from the ground but also worms, insects, larvae, small mammals, eggs, acorns, cereals, carcasses and even garbage. The sizes of home ranges are dependent on the availability of food and disturbances. Usually wild boars do not leave their range. Subadults, especially males, sometimes disperse and try to find contact with other herds. Wild boars can breed twice a year. Breeding takes place in late fall and early winter. Stronger males breed with a number of sows. Gestation period is 115 days. Before giving birth, sows build small nest on the ground and cover them with foliage. Liter size is 4 to 8 but sometimes up to 12, young are born. Lactation period is 2 to 3 months and the offspring depend on their mother for a year. They mature at the age of 18 months. They are good swimmers with acute sense of smell which enables them to find food underground. Longevity is 8 to 10 months in nature and 20 years in captivity.

Distribution: This species occupies a variety of habitats except dry deserts. It can be found, in large numbers, in most habitats in Iran, even in mangrove forests. Wetland areas with tall vegetation cover, especially reeds, are preferred. In drier regions, it is seen in tall vegetation cover such as Tamarix spp.

Erinaceomorpha mammals of Iran

Eastern European Hedgehog – Erinaceus concolor

Family: Erinaceidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 200-290 mm, T 20-39 mm, HF 39-57 mm, E 20-35 mm, S 30 mm and, W 550-1500 gr.  Compared with other hedgehogs, ears are short, round, not longer than frontal spines, and are partly covered with facial hairs. The snout is pointed and bare in front. The tail is short; fore and hind feet are relatively long and each has 5 toes with elongated claws. Sole of both fore and hind feet are bare. Spines have alternate light and dark bands with black tips. Hair on the face and around the eyes is either brown or dark brown. Breast hair is white which sharply contrasts with the black color of under the belly.

Biological characteristic: The species is nocturnal, spending the day sleeping in the nest, which is usually under bushes, among leaves or in tree holes. Tis hedgehog feeds on insects, worms, snails, small rodents, lizards, snakes, bird eggs, animal carcasses and occasionally vegetative materials and garbage. In winter, it hibernates by collecting a large mass of dry leaves and mosses in its nest.  Hibernation usually starts at the end of fall and continues to spring. Mating is in spring and aſter 35 days, between two to six young are born. Females suckle the young until fall and juvenile hedgehogs become adult by the following spring. Maximum life span in captivity is about 7 years.

Distribution: Tis species lives in a variety of habitats such as grasslands, shrub-lands, forested areas (deciduous and evergreen), cultivated lands and orchards. It is abundant in Golestan, Mazandaran, Guilan, West Azarbaijan, Kordestan and highlands of Tehran and Qazvin provinces.

Long-eared Hedgehog – Hemiechinus auritus

Family: Erinaceidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 164-196 mm, T 14-25 mm, HF 28-36 mm, E 31-42 mm, S 15mm and, W 110-330 gr. Ears are very large and longer than the spines on the back of the head. Unlike Brandt’s Hedgehog (Paraechinus hypomelas), the spines on the forehead are not divided into two parts. The snout is long and pointed and both fore and hind feet are large. The facial hair is light brown and ventral and fore and hind feet are creamy white. The spines are tawny with two dark brown bands. Dorsal spines and ventral hair in Sistan specimens are dark in color.

Biological characteristic: It is nocturnal, but lactating females nursing young may be observed during the day. The animal is solitary; runs fast and usually don’t have aggressive behavior. Diet consists of insects, worms, snails, small rodents, lizards, bird eggs, animal carcasses and sometimes vegetative materials. Cannibalism has been observed in this species. It hibernates in cold regions and aestivate in deserts when food is short. Burrow is about 50 cm; it is used for hibernation and resting during the day. Breeding starts in May and aſter a gestation period of 35 to 42 days, 1 to 6 (usually 2 to 3) young are born in July and August. Newborns are 25 to 35 mm in length and eyes open aſter 21 days. Spines are about 2 mm in length at the time of birth, quadrupling in length aſter 5 hours. Maximum life span is 6 years.

Distribution: The long-eared hedgehog inhabits grasslands and shrub-lands at the edge of forests, steppes, semi-desert, dry grasslands, agricultural fields and orchards. It prefers steppe habitats and is found up to 2500 m a.s.l. The species is not abundant and exist in Kerman, Sistan and Baluchestan, Razavi Khorasan, Semnan, Golestan, Tehran, Qazvin, Esfahan, Markazi, Kordestan, Lorestan and Khuzestan provinces.

Desert Hedgehog – Paraechinus aethiopicus

Family: Erinaceidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 140-230 mm, T 20-35 mm, HF 26-35 mm, S 27 mm and, W 400-700 gr. As in Brandt’s hedgehog (Paraechinus hypomelas), a bare part of the forehead divides its spiny area to two parts. Ears are longer than spines of the upper parts of the head and are covered with short white-colored hairs on internal and external surfaces. Soſt hairs cover the ventral area. Facial hairs from snout to eyes are dark brown and from eyes to ears are white in color. Body is covered with dense, thin and tawny colored spines. Lateral and ventral areas are white; fore and hind feet and tail are light brown in color.

Biological characteristic: It is nocturnal and well adapted to desert conditions. Usually prefers oases and areas with good vegetation and abundant food. Food in desert habitats consists of insects, snakes and frogs. In winter and colder habitats, it undergoes several weeks of hibernation. During this period, it may emerge several times from its nest to feed. Fox dens or rabbit warrens are used as nests. Gestation period is 30 to 40 days and 2 to 3 hairless young are born. Cannibalism of young hedgehogs is reported in this species. Longevity is approximately 9 years.

Distribution: Habitat of the desert hedgehog includes coastal bush lands, desert and hilly steppes. It has only been recorded on Greater Tonb Island in the Persian Gulf.

Brandt’s Hedgehog – Paraechinus hypomelas

Family: Erinaceidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 140-270 mm, T 10-40 mm, HF 33-38 mm, S 38 mm and, W 400-700 gr. Ears are triangular and longer than the dorsal spines. There is a bare triangular area between spines on the forehead, which distinguishes this species from long-eared hedgehog (Hemiechinus auritus). The body is black in general, but tawny and white forms are also observed. In black forms, hairs of the face and under parts are black. Spines have black and yellow stripes but the whole body looks black because of the black tips of the spines. In lighter forms, the color of ventral area is whitish-yellow and the color of spines is tawny with no black coloration.

Biological characteristic: It is nocturnal and rests in underground tunnels up to 1 meter deep during the day. Food consists of insects, worms, small vertebrates, including snakes, and vegetative materials such as berries and melons. Copulates in spring and gives birth to 4 to 6 young in late spring or early summer.

Distribution: The Brandt’s hedgehog lives in deserts, foothills of steppe areas, agricultural lands and human habitations. It is reported throughout Iran, except northern forested areas and northwestern parts of the country. The species is also observed on Iranian islands in the Persian Gulf such as Qeshm, Hengam, Hormoz, Larak, Khark, and Greater Tonb.

Lagomorpha mammals of Iran

Family: Leporidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 40-70 cm, T 7-13 cm, HF 11-17 cm, E 8-12 cm and W 2-7 kg. There is no sexual dimorphism. Fore feet are short while hind feet are elongated. Tail is short and ears are long. There are 5 digits on fore-foot and 4 in hind foot that terminate with strong toes. Te dorsal coloration is generally a grayish clay-brown which becomes somewhat lighter on the flanks. The chin, throat and belly are white.  Tail is bi-colored with light under part and darker dorsal surface.  The color of the ears is grey and there is a small black triangular patch at the tip. The soles of fore and hind feet are covered with coarse, long hairs that are yellowish brown in color.

Biological characteristic: It is nocturnal and starts its activities aſter sun set. Sometimes, it might be observed during the day also. It is solitary with an acute sense of hearing. European hare can run fast and even jump up to 3 meters high. During the day it rests under bushes with open eyes and flat ears. Diet of this hare consists of vegetative materials as roots, leaves, fruits and stems. Mating can take place in all seasons. Males fight severely in mating season. Aſter a gestation period of about 42days, 3 to 5 young are born with open eyes. Young are covered with fur and could weigh between 100 to 140 gr. They remain with mother for about 1 month and become adult aſter 6 months. Carnivores as cheetahs, wild cats, foxes and birds of prey feed on this animal. Maximum Longevity in the wild is about 12.5 years.

Distribution: European hare lives in wide range of habitats and sometimes in farmlands. It is distributed in most parts of the country except northeastern areas and is abundant. Due to the decline in predator populations, European hare numbers have increased in recent years and have become a pest. It is only hunted in western parts of the country for food, therefore, in these parts populations have severely decreased.

Family: Leporidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 40-50 cm, T 7-10 cm, HF 10-12 cm, E 8-10 cm and W 1.5-2.5 kg. Morphologically it is similar to European hare, but body size is smaller and pelage lighter. Upper parts are covered with soſt fur that is light gray in color. Sporadic black hairs are observed on the back. The color of abdominal part is cream. There is no demarcation line between upper and lower parts. The color of the external ear is light gray with dark brown tip. The dorsal surface of the tail is black while the tail margin and under part is white.

Biological characteristic: It is usually active in the evenings but sometimes observed during the day. Aſter a gestation period of 45 to 48 days 2 to 4 young are born.

Distribution: It is distributed in semi-desert, steppes and bush lands of north eastern Iran, from MianKaleh peninsula on Caspian Sea to Sarakhs.

Afghan Pika – Ochotona rufescens

Family: Ochotonidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 160-180 mm, T 15 mm, HF 29-33 mm, E 17-21 mm and W 150 gr. It is a medium sized rodent that resembles large rats. Male and female are monomorphic. Tail is degenerated and very small; only small part of it remains that is hidden in the fur. Feet are not long as in hares and do not differ much from the hands. Muzzle is short and black and white whiskers are observed around it that could reach 5 cm in length. The color of hide depends on habitat and could range from gray mixed with brown to gray mixed with reddish brown. Flanks gradually become lighter and blend with the color of under parts which is a mixture of grayish yellow. No visible boundary exists between upper and lower parts.

Biological characteristic: Afghan Pika is diurnal and oſten seen in large group covering an extensive area. Tis animal lives in cold areas but does not hibernate. It is herbivorous and stores large amounts of vegetative material to feed under snow during winter time. It is oſten observed while collecting food. Nest is built in crevices of rocks or stone walls surrounding orchards. The heap of collected food around the nest is sometimes about one meter high. Tis species prefers to stay close to the nest and oſten sits close to it. Pika reproduces several times in a year. Gestation period is 40 days and 4 to 8 (oſten 6) young are born who are blind and naked. Young are nursed between 2 and 3 weeks and can reproduce at 3 months of age.

Distribution: Afghan Pika lives in bush lands and grasslands of mountainous areas in Khorasan Razavi, North Khorasan, South Khorasan, Mazandaran, Golestan, Esfahan, Semnan, Tehran, Fars, Yazd, Kerman, Sistan and Baluchestan, Hormozgan, Markazi, Hamedan, Chaharmahal Bakhtiari, Lorestan, Kermanshah, Kordestan and West Azarbaijan provinces. It also exist in elevation higher than 3000 m., a.s.l. It is an abundant species but has severe fluctuations in population.

Soricomorpha mammals of Iran

Caspian Shrew – Crocidura caspica

Family: Soricidae

Morphological characteristic: Fur is chocolate-brown in color. There is no information available on other external features of the species. It was formerly recognized as Crocidura russula and taxonomic status of the species is still in dispute.

Biological characteristic: At the time of printing, no information was available with respect to biological features.

Distribution: Caspian Shrew was originally reported from the coastal bush lands and lowlands forests in south west of the Caspian Sea and later from the Republic of Azerbaijan. There is no information on abundance of this species.

Bicolored Shrew – Crocidura leucodon

Family: Soricidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 62-90 mm, T 29-43 mm, HF 11-13 mm and W 6-15 gr. Smaller than the house mouse (Mus musculus). Ears are small but visible. Dorsal hair is grayish- brown or chestnut-brown, and ventral is white or gray. A sharply defined line separates the two colors on the sides. Tail is shorter than half of head-body length. It does not become thinner at the end and there is no tuſt. Short hairs cover the tail and scattered longer gray hairs emerge among them. Five toes on both front and hind limbs, covered with thin white hairs. Teeth are white and there are three unicuspid teeth in the upper jaw. Probably two subspecies occur in Iran. C.l.persica in high altitude of Alborz and C.l.caspica in lowland of Hyrcanian forests.

Biological characteristic: It is active during night and day. Food includes tadpoles, small insects and other invertebrates. Breeding takes place in spring and summer and aſter a gestation period of 28 to 31 days, 2 to 6 young are born. New borns wean aſter 18 to 22 days and become adult aſter 8 to 10 months. Maximum longevity in the wild is 3 years and in captivity ranges from 2 to 5 years.

Distribution: Habitat of this species includes dense grasslands, orchards, hedgerows, rock masses and occasionally buildings in month winter. It is observed from bush lands along the coast to 2150 m a.s.l. Bi-coloured shrew lives throughout Caspian forests, from Golestan National Park to Astara, and Arasbaran forests in East Azarbaijan province.

Lesser White-toothed Shrew – Crocidura suaveolens

Family: Soricidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 56-88 mm, T 35-56 mm, HF 10-14 mm and W 4.5-15 gr. Tail is somewhat longer than half of head-body length. It is relatively thick and gradually tapers off, ending with a tuſt of short hairs. Eyes are small and pinna is enlarged so that it is visible through the fur. Body is covered with dense, soſt and delicate hairs. Color of fur on dorsal is variable ranging from light gray to grayish brown and ventral is orange yellow. Large shrews are tending to be darker.

Biological characteristic: Although nocturnal, it is observed also during the day. It is solitary. Diet consists of small insects and terrestrial invertebrates. Breeds from spring to summer and aſter a gestation period of 28 days, 2 to 7 naked young with closed eyes are born. New borns weigh 0.63 gr and their eyes open aſter 10 days and weaning age is around 22 days. Maximum life span in captivity is about 3 years and under 2 years in the wild.

Distribution: Lives in grasslands, bushlands, catail stands, open plains, orchards and even in buildings. Avoids dense forests and inhabits around springs in dry areas. So far it has been reported from Golestan, Fars, Kerman, Esfahan, Chahar mahal and Bakhtiari, Kohgiluye and Boyerahmad and west Azabaijan provinces. There are also unconfirmed reports from Mazandaran and Hormozgan provinces.

Susian Shrew (Iranian Shrew) – Crocidura susiana

Family: Soricidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 78-85 mm, T 56-62 mm, HF 15-17 mm and E 8-9 mm. The Iranian shrew is the largest species of Crocidura. Dorsal hairs are reddish brown, 5 to 6 mm in length, while the ventral surface is covered with light grey hairs. There is no demarcation line between upper and lower parts. Hind limbs are relatively long and tail is long and monochromatic. Teeth lack pigmentation. On each side of maxilla, there are 3 unicuspid teeth.

Biological characteristic: The species is endemic to Iran and no information is available on its biology.

Distribution: The species inhabits semi-arid steppes and the edges of permanent streams covered with herbaceous plants and scatered shrubs. It is so far only reported from 100 to 300 m a.s.l., 8 to 15 km south and south west of Dezful in Khuzestan province.

Gmelin’s White-toothed Shrew – Crocidura gmelini

Family: Soricidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 52-72 mm, T 25-42 mm and HF 11-14 mm. There is no information on other characteristics of the species. Previously it was considered to be a subspecies of Crocidura suaveolens.

Biological characteristic: Limited information is available on the biological features of this species.

Distribution: Unlike other shrews, Gmelin’s with-toothed shrews are adapted for life in dry habitats. It is found in steppes, tamarisk shrub lands, and sand dunes across semi-desert areas. Also known from thick riparian vegetation. Gmelin’s white-toothed shrew was reported from 85 km west of Bojnourd in Dasht region, located on the border of North Khorasan and Golestan provinces at 975 m a.s.l. Due to extensive distribution in central Asia, it is likely to occur in more habitats in eastern Iran.

Pygmy White-toothed Shrew – Suncus etruscus

Family: Soricidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 35-48 mm, T 25-30 mm, HF 7-8 mm, and W 1.5-2.5 gr. It is a shrew with very small and delicate body and is considered as a one of the smallest mammals in the world. The long, pointed snout projects beyond the lower lip and relatively long whiskers are observed around it. Eyes are small and long ears could be observed through fur. Tail is thick in the base and longer and than half of the head-body length. The tail surface is covered with short hairs with a few long hairs growing among them. A bundle of large hairs are observed at the end of the tail. Fur is soſt and short, grayish brown on dorsal and light gray on ventral. Feet are short.

Biological characteristic: Pygmy white toothed shrew is nocturnal, with a peak at dawn and solitary. It is territorial except during breeding season. Diet consists of ants, small insects and other arthropods. It has a high metabolic rate and the amount of food consumed per day exceeds its 1.5 to 2 times body weight. This shrew lives from sea level to 1000 m a.s.l. Nests are built among tree roots or in holes. Breeding occurs in early spring and aſter 27 to 28 days, 2 to 6 naked and blind young are born. Young weigh 0.2 g at the time of birth and wean aſter 17 to 20 days. This shrew breeds twice per year and lifespan is approximately 15 months.

Distribution: This shrew lives in open forests, grasslands, steppes, agricultural fields and orchards and old building. It has been reported from Ardebil, Golestan, Khorasan-e-Razavi, Chahar mahal and bakhtiari, Khuzestan, Fars and Hormozgan provinces.

Asian House Shrew – Suncus murinus

Family: Soricidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 100-150 mm, T 100 mm, HF 16-20 mm, and W 30-100 gr. It is the largest shrew in Iran. The body is elongated with short limbs. The muzzle is lengthy, eyes are very small, and external ears are rather prominent and project above the short fur. Tails is relatively short, half of the head-body length, very thick at the base and tapers to a fine point. Fur is short and brown to grey on dorsal surface, light grey on ventral and light brown on the tail. There are 5 digits in fore and hind feet with thin and white claws.

Biological characteristic: The Asian house shrew is nocturnal and occasionally observed during the day. They are known to be noisy. This shrew feeds on insects and food items such as bread and meat. It has been observed feeding on frogs and even snakes. It can run fast and jump. Mating takes place in spring and fall and aſter a gestation period of 30 days between 2 to 8 young are born, with naked body and blind eyes. They mature aſter 36 days. Longevity ranges from 24 to 30 months.

Distribution: The species is native to Indian subcontinent and lives in forests, agricultural fields, and human settlements. So far, it has been reported from 15 km north-west of Abadan, Khuzastan; probably imported by ships. There are also reports of its presence in Qeshm Island.

Mediterranean Water Shrew – Neomys anomalus

Family: Soricidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 72-90 mm, T 45-60 mm, HF 14-18 mm and W 7-20 gr. Hair is smooth, black on dorsal surfaces and gray on ventral surfaces, with a visible demarcation between the two. Eyes are very small and short ear pinna is hardly visible through the hair. Tail is medium in length and covered with coarse hairs. White hairs grow on the underside of the tail, gradually becoming longer and denser towards the tip, forming a white bundle at the end. Fore and hind limbs have 5 fingers that end with sharp and clear claws. Long hairs grown between hard pads and soles of fore and hind limbs help the animal to swim. Tips of teeth are reddish brown in color.

Biological characteristic: It is active during day and night and lives solitarily. Swims well and is able to walk under water. Diet consists of insect larvae, spiders, worms, and small aquatic animals. Copulates in early spring, gestation period is 24 days and between 4 to 8 blind and naked young are born in each liter. Longevity is about 2 years.

Distribution: Lives in wet grasslands adjacent to rivers, creeks and springs. It has been reported from southern Gorgan and Sheshpir spring at Sepidan of Fars province in Iran. There are also unconfirmed reports from high-lands of south Tonekabon.

Transcaucasian Water Shrew – Neomys teres

Family: Soricidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 85-100 mm, T 53-73 mm, HF 18-22 mm and W 11-28 gr. It is the largest species of genus Neomys. The Transcaucasian Water Shrew looks very similar to Mediterranean water shrew but the tail and hind feet are longer. Dorsal hair is oſten black and ventral is silver-gray. Some individuals have black spots on throat and under the neck.

Biological characteristic: Active during both day and night. It lives solitarily and is a competent swimmer able to walk under water. This water shrew nests in rodent burrows, among roots and brushes. Diet consists of invertebrates, fish and frog eggs, earth worms, and young rodents. Saliva is poisonous and can paralyze prey. Breeds up to 3 times a year and 5 to 9 blind and naked young are produced per liter. Longevity in the wild and captivity are about 2 and 4 years respectively.

Distribution: River banks are the primary habitat for this species. It is highly dependent on small rivers and creeks of forested areas and grasslands. It is distributed in rivers of north western Iran.

Caucasian Pygmy Shrew – Sorex volnuchini

Family: Soricidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 50-67 mm, T 38-50 mm, HF 10-13 mm, and W 2.5-8.5 gr. This species is a small shrew with similar morphology to the Eurasian pygme shrew (Sorex minutus). Tail is monochrome and longer than half of the head-body length. Dorsal fur is brown to dark brown while the ventral part of the body is pale grey. Feet are light brown or creamy yellow.

Biological characteristic: Active at both night and day. This species lives solitarily; building its burrow in tree roots and climbs trees well. Feeds on small invertebrates and occasionally young voles. Breeding occurs between January and June. During this period, 2 to 3 liters, each containing 4 to 8 young are produced. It is observed from 200 to 3200 m., a.s.l. in Caucasia.

Distribution: This shrew lives in humid forests, dense shrub lands, and amongst riverside rocks. In Iran, it is found in Arasbaran forests in the northwest. Limited information is available on this species’ biology and distribution in Iran.

Levant Mole – Talpa levantis

Family: Talpidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 95-140 mm, T 21-30 mm, HF 14-20 mm, and W 36-53 gr. Body is cylindrical and relatively bulky. Muzzle is long, pink in color, pointed and proboscis like. Neck is very short and invisible. Eyes are very small and covered with a layer of skin. There are no pinnae. Fore feet are very wide, oar-like and twisted outward. Tail is short and slightly wide at the base. Body hairs are velvety, dense, short and grey or black in color. Fore and hind feet are naked from wrists outward.

Biological characteristic: It is active during day and night. As a solitary animal spends most of its time underground. Many under ground tunnels are dug which lead to a spacious area that is the nest of the animal. Nest is usually located 90 cm deep under the surface and bedded with soſt materials such as leaves and mosses. When digging the tunnels, excavated soils are pushed out to the surface and heaped over the soil in the direction of tunnels. There is no hibernation and the mole moves to deeper soil in cold seasons. Sense of sight is poor but hearing and especially smelling is strong. Mating takes place from early to mid-spring and gestation period is 4 to 4.5 months. Earth worms are the main food but insects and vertebrates such as snakes, lizards and small rodents are also taken. It is found from the sea level to 2400 m., a.s.l.

Distribution: This mole prefers open fields with deep soils in forested areas and avoids wet and dry soils. It has been reported so far from Chalus area in Mazandaran Province, south Kordkuy heights, Bandar Gaz and Gorgan in Golestan Province and between Rasht & Bandar Anzali in Guilan Province.

Caucasian Mole – Talpa caucasica

Family: Talpidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 134-142 mm, T 20-26 mm, HF 17-23 mm, and W 62-91 gr. Eyes are covered with skin. Males are larger than females and fur is black or dark gray.

Biological characteristic: Tunnels have two types of passages: main, connected to nest cell and feeding passages (superficial and deep). In moist soils superficial passages are about 5 cm below ground; in dense and dry soils at 8-20 cm. Nests are under shelters, tree roots, big stones, mounds. Molehills differ in size and depend on type of soil. Feed mainly on earthworms, however, also consume caterpillars and millipedes. Mating starts in February, females give birth from end of March till end of April. Reproduce once a year, liter size is about 3 young. No other information is available on its biological features.

Distribution: Dependent on moist layers of soil with abundant invertebrates, especially earthworms. This species is also abundant in dense deciduous forests, moist grasslands, and wetlands. Reported from northern aspect at an elevation of about 350 m., a.s.l, and 6 km southeast of Asalem, Guilan province. This location is at a distance of 350 km from the most easterly continuous distribution in Caucasus.

Père David’s Mole – Talpa davidiana

Family: Talpidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 120-134 mm, T 18-30 mm, HF 17-21 mm, and W 61-80 g. The Persian mole resembles other moles but has a shorter tail and is somewhat larger than Mediterranean mole.

Biological characteristic: Like other moles, this species inhabits burrows and eats worms and insects. There is limited information on the biology of this mole due to its limited distribution.

Distribution: Grasslands, mountainous rangelands and orchards are habitat for this mole. It has been trapped in areas above 1000 m and especially at 2000 m., a.s.l. In Iran it has so far been observed at 2000 m., a.s.l. in the Gezar Velley, Kordestan province.

Rodentia mammals of Iran

Indian Crested Porcupine – Hystrix indica

Family: Hystricidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 70-90 cm, T 8-10 cm, S 18 to 35 cm, and W 11-25 kg. Indian Crested Porcupine is the largest rodent in Iran. Long spines that cover the body, give a particular distinctive morphology to the animal which is unique among rodents. Tail length is quite short. Muzzle is broad and covered with rough hairs. Vibrissae are very long and sometimes reach 20 cm on upper lip. The body is covered with rough hairs which partly change to spines on the back and flanks. Short and bristle-like hairs grow under and among spines in different parts of the body. Spines are slender and long on the back and shoulders, whereas, on the back are thick and short, marked with black and white bands. Spines on the tail are short and white.

Biological characteristic: It is nocturnal and usually emerges from its burrow only well aſter dark. This animal is seldom observed in nights with moonlight. It is solitary but sometimes lives in family groups. There is no actual hibernation but may stay in the burrow for few months in winter. It builds the burrow in narrow valleys, rock crevices, caves, deserted Qantas, and ruins of old houses. Porcupines excavate the soil to feed on plant roots especially preferring tuberous plants as potatoes. Fruits such as dates, insects, small vertebrates, and sometimes carcasses are eaten. Teeth, antlers and bones are carried to the burrows for gnawing that provides calcium for the body. Senses of smell and hearing are strong contrary to sight. Porcupine breeds once a year. Gestation period is 112 days and 1 to 4 young are born per liter. Longevity is about 15 years and natural predator is Leopard.

Distribution: Habitat includes forests, mountains, steppes, and deserts. Indian porcupine lives throughout Iran with the exception of northwestern parts of the country and true deserts with relatively high abundance.

Coypu (Nutria) – Myocastor coypus

Family: Myocastoridae

Morphological characteristic: HB 40-60 cm, T 25-45 cm, HF 12-14 cm and W 5-10, and rarely17 kg. It is a semi-aquatic rodent resembling a large rat but smaller in size than a hare. They have a coarse, darkish brown outer fur and soſt grey under-fur. Around the muzzle and moustaches are white. The color of outer surfaces of upper incisors is orange-yellow. Tail is round with no hair and sharp ended. Eyes and ears are small and hind foot consists of four webbed toes suitable for swimming.

Biological characteristic: It is nocturnal but in cold season and when natural predators and humans are absent they might be observed during the day. Nutria is a social animal and strong swimmer. Burrows consist of tunnels about 15 meters long. Entrance of the burrow is above water level. Nutria breeds year round with gestation period of 130 days. The number of young in a liter ranges from 1 to 13 with average of 5 young. Young nutria are born with a body covered with fur and open eyes and are able to swim in short time aſter birth. As an adaptation for life in aquatic environment, mammary glands are located on the side of the body enabling the young to nurse while their mother is swimming. Longevity in captivity is from 6 to 8 years while in nature rarely reaches 4 years.

Distribution: Wetlands and rivers with dense vegetation are habitat for the species. Nutria is native to South America but was introduced to many counties for fur production. Tose escaped from production farms have established extensive colonies in some parts of Europe and Asia. In Iran it is reported from the banks of Aras River, Astara (Lavandevil), Talesh, Jolfa and Agh Gol wetland in West Azarbaijan Province.

Persian Squirrel – Sciurus anomalus

Family: Sciuridae

Morphological characteristic: HB 190-210mm, T 128-143mm, HF 50-60mm, E 27-29 mm and W about 330-430 gr. The body size of this species is medium with a long and bushy tail. The upper parts are brown with a tint of russet red and the under parts are yellow. The tail is shorter than the head-body length. The top of the tail is russet red and lighter on the bottom. The claws are delicate and long with a dark base becoming lighter towards the tips. The eyes are large and the ears relatively long.

Biological characteristic: This species is diurnal, it is mostly observed in early mornings and evenings. The animal is oſten observed singly in trees where it is very active and agile. When threatened it climbs up the tree with the help of its claws and jumps from one branch to the other. It is seldom injured when it falls on the ground. Although seldom entering water it can swim well. The Persian squirrel feeds on fruits, seeds, acorns, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and berries and occasionally feeds on bird eggs and chicks. It does not usually make a nest and uses cervices and holes of trees as nest. The nest is lined with mosses and dry vegetation. It is seldom observed during winter in cold regions but no evidence is available on its hibernation. It produces two to three liters per year of 2 to 4 young. It lives up to 15 years in captivity.

Distribution: The preferred habitat of the species in Iran is Zagros Oak forests though it is also occasionally observed in orchards. It is distributed in the western parts of the Zagros Mountains from West Azarbaijan to Fars province; escaped individuals can be found in coniferous plantations in Tehran. This squirrel usually prefers tall and mature trees. The squirrel is relatively abundant in protected areas.

Long-clawed Ground Squirrel – Spermophilopsis leptodactylus

Family: Sciuridae

Morphological characteristic: HB 200-280 mm, T 70-90mm, HF 55-59mm, E 13-18 mm and W about 600 gr. This squirrel has a large body, small ears and a short, hairy tail. Hair on the body is long and soſt in winter; shed in early spring and replaced by short course pelage in summer. Hair on the upper parts of the body and tail is grayish yellow and whitish yellow on under parts. The terminal part of the tail is marked with a black strip with white margins. Its claws can reach 12 mm, a length that enables the species to excavate the ground. Long hairs protect the soles of the feet from hot surfaces and prevent the animal from sinking in sands.

Biological characteristic: This species is diurnal; mostly observed in early mornings and in the evenings. It lives in small groups and prefers firm sandy grounds for its burrow that usually have only one entrance. In winter the animal can be observed outside its burrow throughout the day but remains in the nest on cold days. Hibernation is not observed but the burrow entrance may be closed with sand and dry plants during hot summer days and animal aestivate there. The sense of vision is strong and the animal stands up on its hind feet to look around, fleeing to its burrow when alarmed. Its diet consists of seeds, fruits, leaves and plant roots. It copulates in early spring when the animal seems to be most active; at times it may venture large distances from the burrow. About 25 days aſter copulation 3 to 7 naked and blind young are born. Young squirrels are observed outside the burrow at the end of spring and they mature at the age of about 9 months. Red foxs and raptors are known to prey upon this species.

Distribution: This species lives in sand dunes and is found only in the Sarakhs area, northeast Iran.

Yellow Ground Squirrel – Spermophilus fulvus

Family: Sciuridae

Morphological characteristic: HB 240-280, T 70-78, HF 43-52, E 7-8 mm and W 460-1000 gr. The body is relatively large with a tail that is shorter than the body length. The eyes are large and the ears are very small. The dorsum is creamy yellow with a brown tint. The under parts are lighter. The soles of both fore and hind limbs are bare and the claws are longer on the fore limbs.

Biological characteristic: This squirrel is diurnal and gregarious and oſten observed standing on their feet outside their burrows. When sensing danger a whistle like sound is produced and animals flee to their burrows. Burrows have one entrance and are built 50-100 cm below the ground surface. The species is active during mornings and evenings resting during the middle of the day.  The species hibernates in colder areas become active again at the end of winter or early spring. The species is active until the end of spring and possibly aestivates. Reproduction is twice a year with a liter of 5 to 9 young.

Distribution: This species inhabits cold steppes with sparse vegetation and productive clay soils. Flat agricultural areas are preferred. There are two distinct populations of Yellow ground squirrel in Iran. One in northwest in the provinces of Hamadan, Kordestan, Zanjan, Qazvin and Tehran. The other population is found in northeast in North Khorsan, Razavi Khorasan and South Khorasan provinces.

Asia Minor Ground Squirrel – Spermophilus  xanthoprymnus

Family: Sciuridae

Morphological characteristic: HB 170-225 mm, TL 30-50 mm, HF 21-41 mm, E 8-16 mm, and W 80-320 gr. The body size is somewhat smaller than the ground squirrel Spermophilus fulvs. The soles of the feet are covered with hair. The dorsal fur is brownish grey but lighter and white on the venter and the feet are yellowish. The tail is short.

Biological characteristic: This species is diurnal and inhabits shallow burrows usually connected with 3 to 5 tunnels to the ground surface. In appearance and behavior it is very similar to S. fulvs. It is a gregarious animal and establishes small colonies and emits monosyllabic hisses. The diet consists of fresh parts of plants. Hibernation takes place from September to January and during this period 30% of the body weight is lost. Mating takes place in early spring and, aſter 27 days, 1 to 4 young are born. New born animals weigh 5 g and nurse for about 20 days.

Distribution: This species inhabits gently sloping steppes covered with short herbaceous plants, as well as agricultural fields. To date it has been reported from north of Pir Ahmad Kandi village near the Iranian border with Turkey, and west of the city of Bazargan.

Northern Palm Squirrel – Funambulus pennantii

Family: Sciuridae

Morphological characteristic: HB 133-143mm, T 146-155 mm, HF 32-37 mm, E 13-18 mm and W 50-123 gr. This species is smaller than Persian Squirrel Sciurus anomalus but is distinguished by the presence of 4 wide black stripes on a white back. The color of the venter is dirty white. The tail is covered with thick hair and is white above and grey beneath.

Biological characteristic: The northern Palm squirrel is active during the day and observed throughout the day in winter. It is semi-arboreal, and builds its nests, covered with soſt plant material, among dense tree branches, in wall or rock crevices. Northern palm squirrels are known for their repetitive, shrill, bird-like calls. They usually descend from trees to feed on seeds, fruits, buds, leaves, tree bark, grubs and bird eggs. Females may breed with several males and aſter a gestation period of about 6 weeks 2 to 4 naked young are born. This squirrel probably breeds two times per year. Females nurse their young for about one month and aſter 8 months they become adult. Natural predators of this species are Indian Grey Mongoose, Domestic cat and Diurnal raptors.

Distribution: The northern Palm squirrel lives in woodlands, urban and rural gardens and palm groves only in southeastern Baluchestan of Iran. Presently, relatively good populations are found in gardens around Chah Bahar, Dareh Sarbaz and Bahu Kalat protected areas.

Small Five-toed Jerboa – Allactaga elater

Family: Dipodidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 90-128 mm, T 148-185 mm, HF 46-58 mm, E 25-38 mm and W 32-73 gr. This species is the smallest jerboa in Iran. Its muzzle is short and wide with long ears; when folded forward, the ears extend beyond the muzzle. The color of the pelage is dark grey on the back with buff tipped hairs. The flanks are lighter in color and the venter is white. There is a white bar on the thigh which unites with the white color on the venter. The tail tuſt has three colors of hair; short off-white hairs, followed by 3 cm black hairs, and 2 cm long white hairs at the tip. The hind feet have 5 fingers with only the 3 middle ones being functional. The soles of the feet are naked. There is a pair of small premolars on the upper jaw and small incisors with no grooves.

Biological characteristic: The small five-toed jerboa is nocturnal and lives solitarily. Its food consists of plants, especially seeds, bulbs, roots but it also consumes insects. Its burrows usually have two exits and a spherical nest chamber built at a depth of 25-60 cm, with 40-120 cm tunnels connecting to the surface. The main entrance is closed during the day. Each burrow is used by one jerboa except during hibernation. It breeds twice a year between spring to fall. The gestation period is about 40 days aſter which 2 to 6 young are born. They hibernate two months in cold seasons but do not stock food for winter.

Distribution: The small five-toed jerboa inhabits steppe and semi desert habitats with sparse vegetation cover. It prefers sandy and loamy soils and areas with a mixture of vegetation and avoids open spaces and dense vegetation. The species has been reported from West Azarbaijan, Ardebil, Kordestan, Esfahan, Fars, Tehran, North Khorasan, Khorasan Razavi, South Khorasan, Kerman, Golestan, and Sistan and Baluchistan provinces. This is one of the most abundant jerboas in Iran.

Williams’s jerboa – Allactaga williamsi

Family: Dipodidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 107-150 mm, T 185-255 mm, HF 53-74 mm, E 31-59 mm, and W 53-142 gr. This is the largest Allactaga species in Iran. The head is relatively large and round, with large, oval-shaped ears, and large eyes. The fur on the dorsum ranges from fawn to dark brown; darker on waist and fawn on the sides, while the venter is white. The transition from dark dorsum to white venter is rather distinct. The tail is 1.6 times the length of the HB. The tail tuſt is fawn at the base, followed by a black or dark brown stripe of variable length, and the tip is pure white; with, a bundle of sub-terminal orange hairs sometimes visible. The feet have five toes and naked soles.

Biological characteristic: Williams’ jerboa is a nocturnal rodent, spending the day in 100 to 160 cm long burrows. The burrow chamber is located 29 to 55 cm below the surface and is lined with soſt materials such as wool and hair. It breeds two times in a year and 3 to 6 young are born per liter. Young are born with a tail and short legs; tail outgrows BL within 12 days. The diet varies with season: insects and their larvae in spring and summer and other plant food in other season. It hibernates for two months during winter and does not stock food. There is no aestivation.

Distribution: The preferred habitat of this jerboa is steppe and rocky sparsely vegetated areas of Alborz and Zagros up to 2500 m, a.s.l. It is mostly found on slopes and hills, and rarely near cultivated areas. It has been reported to date from East Azarbaijan, West Azarbaijan, Hamedan, Kermanshah, Kordestan, Tehran, and Qazvin provinces. It is probably also present in mountainous steppes of the northeast due to its occurrence in Afghanistan.

Euphrates Jerboa – Allactaga euphratica

Family: Dipodidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 86-129 mm, T 159-195 mm, HF 47-61 mm, E 27-38 mm, and W 48-92 gr. The Euphrates jerboa, as with other Dipodidae, has very long hind feet and short fore limbs. Brown-yellow fur covers the dorsal side, with dark grey hairs on the waist, buff-yellow on the sides, and white on the belly. The transition between dark upperparts and light underparts is indistinct. A white stripe on the thigh joins the white under parts at the base of the tail. The terminal tail tuſt consist of dirty white and black hairs that have white tips. The soles are hairless; few brown hair grow on margins of feet soles.

Biological characteristic: The Euphrates jerboa is nocturnal and lives solitarily. Its diet consists of seeds, bulbs, and plant roots. It inhabits one main burrow and several temporary ones. Temporary burrows are short and shallow. The diameter of burrow entrances ranges from 5 to 11 cm. The main burrow is dug at depths of 35-40 cm, with 45-120 cm long tunnels connecting it to the surface. The animal plugs the burrow entrances with earth to save moisture in spring and summer; it aestivates in hot seasons. It breeds 2 to 3 times per year. Snakes, owls, and small carnivorous mammals prey on this jerboa.

Distribution: The Euphrates jerboa inhabits low hills in steppes and semi-deserts habitats, and also areas adjacent to agricultural fields. It is found in border areas between Iran and Iraq in Khuzestan and Ilam Provinces. There is no available data of abundance of this species in Iran.

Hotson’s Jerboa – Allactaga hotsoni

Family: Dipodidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 190-124 mm, T 167-220 mm, HF 50-62 mm, E 38-46 mm, and W 41-75 gr. In this species the body size is relatively small with elongated ears. The fur on the dorsum is relatively long, buff on the base and black at the tip, which creates a dark shaded, ochre-brown overall look. The venter is white with no clear demarcation between upper and lower parts. The upper and lower parts of the tail are covered with short fine, brown-ochre hairs. The terminal tail tuſt is brown with a white tip. The hind feet are covered with small dark brown to black hairs; white hair grows between three fingers.

Biological characteristic: Hotson’s jerboa is nocturnal and inhabits open desert areas. It is solitary outside of the breeding season. The diet consists of fresh vegetative materials. It breeds once in early spring and hibernates during mid-fall to late winter. The species inhabits both permanent and temporary burrows. It does not stock food for winter. Owls, foxes and snakes prey on this species.

Distribution: The species is observed on sandy soils and open steppe plains in deserts and semi-deserts, 200-1500 m, a.s.l. It was first reported from Saravan (Sistan and Baluchistan) at 204 m, a.s.l and later from Kavir N.P in Semnan, Bajestan (Khorasan Razavi), Yazd, and Shahre-Reza (Esfahan). It is less abundant than other jerboas.

Tousi Jerboa – Allactaga toussi

Family: Dipodidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 109 mm, T 177 mm, HF 53 mm, E 37 mm, and W 63 gr. The dorsal fur is brown and on the venter is white. The inner surface of the ear is covered with dark hair. The limbs and their margins are naked. The claws are relatively darker than those of other Dipodidae members. The terminal tuſt of the tail is light brown.

Biological characteristic: The species is probably nocturnal, but more studies are needed on the biology of the species.

Distribution: The species has been reported only from Cheshmeh Gilas, northwest of the city of Mashhad and the Sarakhs area in Khorasan Razavi Province.

Dwarf Fat-tailed Jerboa – Pygeretmus pumilio

Family: Dipodidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 90-120 mm, T 120-180 mm, HF 40-50 mm, E 18-32 mm, and W 45-60 gr. This is a small Dipodidae with 5 toes on its hind feet with only the 3 middle ones well developed. The fur on the back is light grey to dark grayish brown; lighter on the flanks and top of the head, and white on the venter. The tail is thick with a black terminal tuſt and white tip. The ears are small and the soles of the feet are naked. There are no premolars as are found in other Dipodidae members.

Biological characteristic: The species is nocturnal and usually solitary. It inhabits complex tunnels the entrances of which are plugged during the day. The diet consists of plant materials such as seeds and bulbs. A layer of fat is deposited in the tail that is used when food is short. There is no information on its reproductive biology though it probably breeds more than once a year with 2 to 6 young per litter.

Distribution: The dwarf fat-tailed jerboa inhabits desert areas with clay soils and sparse fleshy vegetation. The species has to date been reported from Turkeman Sahra of Golestan province.

Northern Three-toed Jerboa – Dipus sagitta

Family: Dipodidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 110-157 mm, T 140-180 mm, HF 59-67 mm, E 16 -26 mm, and W 70-110 gr. This species resembles the Lesser Egyptian jerboa (Jaculus jaculus) with a fawn to sandy yellow dorsum and a pure white venter. As in other jerboas, the long tail ends in a black tuſt with a white tip. The hind feet have 3 toes with long hairs covering the soles. These hairs are not very long as with Jaculus but also not very short as in Allactaga. The incisors are grooved and yellow in color in contrast to the white incisors of other Dipodidae members. There is a pair of premolars in the upper jaw distinguishing it from Jaculus species.

Biological characteristic: The northern three-toed Jerboa is nocturnal and lives in both permanent and temporary burrows. The male digs a simple burrow, the female a more complex one. Permanent burrows are located at a depth of 40 to 100 cm with 5 to 6 m long tunnels.  Temporary burrows are located at a depth of 50 cm. Both sexes plug the entrance to their burrows during the day. The species is highly adapted to arid conditions and rarely needs to drink water. They feed on fresh leaves, roots, bulbs, and seeds in spring and on insects and insect larvae in other seasons. No information is available on the reproductive biology of the species in Iran. The breeding season varies from 2 to 2.5 months in the northern and 8 to 9 months in the southern parts of their range. The species breeds 1 to 4 times per year with a gestation period of 25 to 30 days. It hibernates from October to late March but activity during winter has also been observed.

Distribution: The species inhabits sand dunes and shrub lands in deserts and semi-desert habitats. To date the species has been reported from Ahmad Abad village on the border of Touran Protected Area in Semnan province. It most probably also inhabits Sarakhs in Khorasan Razavi Province and Turkaman Sahra in Golestan Province. It has shown little population fluctuation, with densities reaching 5 to 6 individuals per hectare in suitable years.

Blanford’s Jerboa – Jaculus blanfordi

Family: Dipodidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 108-136 mm, T 170-218 mm, HF 60-67 mm, E 18-23 mm, and W 77-93 gr. This is the largest Jaculus species in Iran. The eyes are large and the ears small.  The hind limbs are long and the short front limbs are used for handling food and excavating burrows. The fur on the dorsum is creamy yellow and pure white on the venter. The tail tuſt is 5 cm long, dark brown at the base with a 3 cm white tip. The hind feet have 3 toes with vestigial lateral ones. The soles of the feet are covered with long hairs. There are no premolars.

Biological characteristic: Blanford’s jerboa is nocturnal and not oſten seen on moonlit nights. It feeds on plants; seeds and roots of cereal crops and halophytic plants are commonly consumed. The species lives in 1.5 to 2 m long permanent burrows with a single entrance and 1 or 2 terminal chambers. The animal does not store food in the burrow. Gestation period is about 40 days and it breeds 1 to 3 times in a year with 3 to 4 young per liter. Longevity is about 6 years.

Distribution: The species inhabits desert and sandy plains. To date densities of 1 individual per hectare have been reported. It has been found in Sistan and Baluchistan, South Khorasan, Khorasan Razavi, Esfahan, Kerman, Yazd, Semnan and Tehran provinces.

Lesser Egyptian Jerboa – Jaculus jaculus

Family: Dipodidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 95-125 mm, T 150-230 mm, HF 46-58 mm, E 17-23 mm, and W 50-75 gr. The body resembles Blanford’s jerboa (J. blanfordi) but is smaller. The fur on the dorsum varies from light yellow to sandy dark; it is grey on the sides, and white on the venter. A demarcation line between upper and lower parts is quite visible. There is a white patch below each ear. The dorsal and ventral colors are extended onto the tail.  The hind feet have 3 fingers and the 2 lateral ones are vestigial. The soles of the feet are covered with dense hairs, 7-8 mm long.

Biological characteristic: The lesser Egyptian jerboa is nocturnal. The burrow is located 1-2 m below the surface, has 2 entrances that are plugged in summer to conserve moisture and keep cool, and is lined with camel hair and dry leaves. It feeds on seeds and insects, sometimes traveling up to 10 km in search for food. Stored food is found in some of the burrows. Activity is reduced in winter but no real hibernation has been observed. It probably aestivates in hot summers, with legs and tail spread; it can easily be caught while aestivating. The species breeds once a year and aſter a gestation period of 25 days 4 to 5 young are born. Longevity is about 6 years in captivity. Owls and small carnivores are among the predators that prey on the species.

Distribution: The species inhabits desert, semi-desert, sand dunes, and coastal shrub lands covered with halophytic vegetation. To date in Iran it has been reported from Khuzestan and Bushehr provinces.

Zagros Mountain Calomyscus – Calomyscus bailwardi

Family: Calomyscidae

Morphological characteristic: HB 70-92 mm, T 82-100 mm, HF 20-23 mm, E 19 to 26 mm and W 10-24 gr. The body size of this species is small with long ears and a bushy tail. The snout is rounded with large eyes. The hind feet are delicate with 5 toes. Part of the soles of the feet is covered with white hair while the rest is naked.  The color of the body is orange brown on top and white underneath. The flanks appear dark due to the presence of scattered black hairs with a marked boundary between the color of upper and lower parts. The ears are long, bare, light in color and covered with scattered hairs. A small white patch is found on the frontal base of the ears. The color of the upper parts of the fore and hind limbs is white. The lower part of the tail is pure white and the upper part has the same color as the upper parts of the body.

Biological characteristic: This species is nocturnal but can be seen during the day in fall and winter. It usually lives in social groups and is active throughout the year even in very cold and stormy weather. Nests are usually built in rock crevices or under rocks. Food consists of seeds, leaves, flowers and animal maters such as insects and food remains are observed near the nests. Two liters per year is usual and each liter consists of 3 to 5 naked young born with closed eyes.

Distribution: This species lives in high mountainous areas or rocky outcrops in steppes or desert habitats. It avoids mesic habitats. It has been reported to date from the Zagros Mountains in Kordestan, Ilam, Lorestan, Fars, western Esfahan, northern Khuzestan, Kerman and Hormozgan provinces. It is relatively abundant.

Noble Calomyscus – Calomyscus grandis

Family: Calomyscidae

Morphological characteristic: This is the largest and darkest species of Calomyscus. The snout is long and narrow and the fur color is grey. The tail and hind feet are longer than those of other long-tailed hamsters.

Biological characteristic: No information is available on the biology or ecological requirements of the species. It probably prefers forested mountainous habitats.

Distribution: The species is reported only from the central Alborz Mountains in northern Iran. It has been observed in mountainous hills near Fasham at 2700 m a.s.l., hills and southern slopes of Damavand Mountain at 2590 m, Doab in Central Alborz and Abass Abad on the northern slopes of the Alborz mountains of Mazandaran province.

Reference: Department of Environment of Iran (

Progress: Mammals of Iran added100%