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Caracal

Caracal caracal (Schreber 1776) Caracal

Hebrew name: קרקל, karakal

Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae

Global Threat: NE – Not Evaluated
Regional Threat: VU (B,D1+2) – Vulnerable

Distribution area: Principally in desert areas: the Arava, Negev, Judean Desert and lower Jordan Valley. In other areas the population is very sparse.

Historic distribution: The caracal was once relatively scarce. Tristram (1866) reported the “red lynx” as being very rare in Palestine, and although he never personally sighted one, he saw skins that had supposedly been hunted in eastern Palestine (in Ilani 1979). Father Schmitz (1912) collected specimens from Herodium and Nahal Qidron, near the Haritoun monastery  (in Ilani 1979). Bodenheimer (1958) reported the species from the wadis descending to the Dead Sea, and mentioned a specimen that Aharoni acquired from the Carmel in 1930 (in Ilani 1979).
In the 1960s reports testified to presence of caracals south of the Tel Aviv-Jericho line in low densities, and from the southern Dead Sea and northwestern Negev in high densities (Ilani 1979). During the 1970s the population grew and there are now regular reports from south of the Tel Aviv-Jericho line, as well as isolated observations from the Zevulun and Bet She’an valleys.

Typical Habitat: All habitats with the exception of marshes, streams, dense Mediterraniean woodland, shifting sands and high mountains (Ilani 1979).

Threat and Disturbance Factors:
1. Decrease of hare and chukar populations – its preferred food.
2. Roadkill.
3. Poisoning.

Population Size Estimate: Ilani (1979) estimated the population at 120-165 or more.

Fluctuations in Population Size: The caracal population seems stable and possibly has even grown since the 1970s, with new records from the Carmel and Carmel coast, the Jordan Valley, the fringes of the Hula Valley and the southern Golan Heights.

Isolation between Subpopulations: Unknown.

Necessary Steps for Species Preservation:
1. Preserving large natural areas inhabited by chukars and hares that are the caracal’s main food.
2. Constructing many wide road underpasses to prevent roadkill and population fragmentation.