MAMMALS

 

The fauna of the National Parks has only been studied sporadically however, according to existing information the following mammals have been observed. The island tends to have fewer species than the mainland, common animals such as red squirrels, foxes and pine martins have not made it across the water yet. 

 

Although the Beech martens range in colour from dark brown to pale greyish brown. A white or buff streak can be seen just below the chin running down the neck to the chest. In some Southern and Eastern regions this white streak is absent. Young have grey dorsal fur. Beech Martens have little to no fur on the soles of the feet. The limbs are long, a bushy tail is present, and the pelt is coarser than their close relative 'Martes martes', pine martens.

  

The famous and now rare Agrimi, 'Kri Kri' or Cretan Ibex, is a protected species and was considered a subspecies of Wild Goat. They have survived since the Minoan ages and still roam freely in the mountains of Crete. Homer mentions that this proud and untamed animal lived in places where no man can go. They can still be seen in the White Mountains, the Samaria National Forest and on the islets of Dia, Agioi Pantes and Thodoros. The Kri-kri is a symbol of the island much used in tourist resorts and official literature with statues in many villages, although few tourists or even locals have ever seen one. 

 

They are very impressive with a light brownish coat with a darker band around its neck. It has two horns swept back from the head. In the wild, they are shy and rest during the day. They avoid tourists and can leap some distance or climb seemingly sheer cliffs.The 'Kri-kri' is not thought to be indigenous to Crete, but was imported during the time of the Minoan Civilisation. Their last stronghold is among the peaks of the 8,000 ft (2,400 m) White Mountains particularly on a series of almost vertical 3,000 ft (900 m) cliffs called 'the Untrodden' at the head of the Samarian Gorge.  By the early 60's the 'Kri-kri' was under threat with numbers below 200 but luckily  the Samaria Gorge becoming a national park at that time. One of the reason for its demise was that it had been the only meat available to mountain guerrillas during the German occupation in World War II.  Today their numbers are still only about 2,000  making them very vulnerable.  Their grazing grounds have become more scarce and disease has affected them. Thankfully now hunting them is strictly prohibited. 

 

THE CRETAN WILD CAT

 

Cretan shepherds have long claimed that the wilder parts of the island are home to a large Wild Cat called the 'fourogattos' (furious cat), living in the mountains of Psiloritis, with a tawny pelt and a formidable snarl!  Myth or monster it was classed as the Ghost Cat even after 1905 when two skins were bought in Hania Market by a member of a scientific team, even then no one really believed this creature existed.  Then in 1996 an Italian University Team came to the island to study the carnivores of the Mountains. To their amazement they caught in one of their traps a five and a half kg (12lbs) Wild Cat. The Cretan Wild Cat is a subspecies of the European Wild Cat that is fully nocturnal, explaining why it was so rarely spotted. Scientists are now testing two possible explanations as to whether the Wild Cat was brought here in antiquity for domestication? 


Or did the animal exist on Crete prior to the separation of Crete from the neighbouring mainland?  The main question to this conundrum is 'surely this could not have been the only one', or perhaps that is why it was caught - the last of this species trying to survive?

 

THE CRETAN SPINY MOUSE

 

The Crete spiny mouse 'Acomys minous' is a threatened species of mouse endemic to Crete. Found wild in Crete and also Cyprus, it is believed that it may have been artificially introduced onto these islands where, separated from the mainland population, it eventually acquired certain differences notably being greyer in colouration with a more pointed face. It has coarse, stiff hairs on its back and tail.  Its fur colour varies from yellow to red, grey or brown on its face and back, with white fur on its underside. It is a nocturnal forager, feeding mainly on grass blades and seeds, and builds only a very rudimentary nest. The gestation is between 5 and 6 weeks, which is also unusually long for a mouse. 


At birth, other females clean and assist the mother. The young are well developed and their eyes are open when they are born. Like most small rodents, it is nocturnal and is therefore not the easiest of the island’s mammals to see.
 
The Cretan Shrew is endemic to Greece . Its natural habitat is temperate shrub land and is threatened by habitat loss.
 

 

ARTIODACTYLA  
(cloven-hoofed)  

Common Name

Scientific Name

Cretan Mountain Goat   Capra aegagrus creticus
   
CARNIVORA  
Cretan Wildcat Felis silvestris cretensis
Cretan badger Melesmeles-arcalus.
Cretan Beech Marten Martes foina-bunites
Weasel   Mustella nivalis  
   
RODENTIA
(gnawing)
Cretan Spiny Mouse Acomys minous

Fat Door-mouse

Glis glis

Rat

Rattus rattus

Mouse  

Mus musculus

Wood Mouse Apodemus sylvaticus
Rock Mouse Apodemus mystacinus epimelas
   
LAGOMORPHA  
(rabbits, hares)  
Brown Hare   Lepus europaeus  
European Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus
   

INSECTIVORA
(shrews, moles)

Cretan Shrew Crocidura zimmermanni
Pygmy White Toothed Shrew Suncus etruscus
Lesser White Toothed Shrew Crocidura suaveolens 
Hedgehog   Erinaceus concolor  
Mole   Talpa  
   

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