Endangered animals

Most Endangered Animals in Europe

María Luz Thurman
By María Luz Thurman, Biologist/ornithologist. June 21, 2023
Most Endangered Animals in Europe

The endangered animals of Europe face many of the same threats as other parts of the world. However, even Europeans themselves don't always give their plight the consideration they deserve. When asked to think about animals in danger of extinction, many of us think of exotic animals from areas such as Africa or the tropics. Some of the most famous conservation organizations use animals such as pandas, tigers and other well-known animals in danger of extinction. This can feed into the misguided belief that animals in European areas do not face conservation threats.

At AnimalWised, we explain what are the 10 most endangered animals in Europe. We discover what species are most under threat, as well as what actions have resulted these European endangered animals being in such a vulnerable position.

You may also be interested in: Most Endangered Species in North America
  1. Karpathos frog (Pelophylax cerigensis)
  2. Apennine yellow-bellied toad (Bombina pachypus)
  3. Cretan frog (Pelophylax cretensis)
  4. Balearic Shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus)s
  5. Yellow-breasted bunting (Emberiza aureola)
  6. Steppe eagle (Aquila nipalensis)
  7. Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus)
  8. European mink (Mustela lutreola)
  9. Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus)
  10. North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis)
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Karpathos frog (Pelophylax cerigensis)

This species is an amphibian of the Ranidae family, commonly known as true frogs. It is endemic to the Karpathos Islands of Greece. It lives in areas with abundant vegetation and streams and rivers with seasonal or permanent water. They are also known to inhabit areas with a lot of agricultural activity. This often adds to its threat of extinction since they can be killed by agricultural machinery.

It measures about 2" (5 cm) with the female being larger than the male. This little frog is in critical danger of extinction, mainly due to the loss of its habitat. This makes them one of the most endangered European animals. It has a very limited range of distribution which can be as small as about 10 km2 according to some studies.

Most Endangered Animals in Europe - Karpathos frog (Pelophylax cerigensis)

Apennine yellow-bellied toad (Bombina pachypus)

Another European amphibian threatened with extinction, the Apennine yellow-bellied toad belongs to the Bombinatoridae family and is an endemic species of Italy. It is present in environments that range from temperate forests, meadows and swamps to cultivated areas such as pastures, irrigated land and agricultural areas.

It is between 1.2-2" (3-5 cm) long and has very striking yellow spots on its belly, which gave it its common name. It is a species categorized as endangered due to its main threat, which is the destruction and loss of their environments, as well as the disease chytridiomycosis. This is a fungal disease which may have an increased spread due to the practices of the agricultural industry.

Take a look at our related article to learn the difference between frogs and toads.

Most Endangered Animals in Europe - Apennine yellow-bellied toad (Bombina pachypus)
Image: amphibianrescue.org

Cretan frog (Pelophylax cretensis)

Another endangered also belong to Greece, this ranid is endemic to the Island of Crete. It inhabits areas of Mediterranean vegetation, close to areas with streams, lakes and rivers. It is also known to inhabit areas with heavy agricultural activity.

The Cretan frog is a species that reaches about 3" (8 cm) when it reaches adulthood and has a very characteristic green color with a lighter belly. It is also on the list of most endangered animals in Europe due to habitat loss. It is also in competition for resources with invasive anuran species introduced to its area, the American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus). Invasive species from outside of Europe are a significant threat to many endemic European species.

Most Endangered Animals in Europe - Cretan frog (Pelophylax cretensis)

Balearic Shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus)s

Moving away from amphibians, we discover some endangered European birds. We start with the Balearic shearwater which belongs to the order Procellariiformes. This type of petrel is distributed throughout the Mediterranean and the northeast Atlantic. Its name comes from the fact that it only breeds in the Balearic Islands of Spain.

This species can reach about 16" (40 cm) in length, its wingspan is about 35" (90 cm) and is characterized by its greyish-brown plumage on the top with a lighter belly. Currently, the rapid decline in its populations is mainly due to changes in its habitat, especially due to the reduction of the areas where it breeds due to urbanization and tourism. All of these factors have led to its status as being in critical danger of extinction.

If you want to learn about threatened wildlife in other parts of the world, take a look at our article on the most endangered animals in North America.

Most Endangered Animals in Europe - Balearic Shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus)s

Yellow-breasted bunting (Emberiza aureola)

The next endangered European bird species is in the Passeriformes order and is a migratory bird inhabiting northeastern Europe and northern Asia. They inhabit open areas close to bodies of water. It measures about 6" (15 cm) in length and its morphology is very striking. It has a streaked brown coloration on its back and its belly is yellow. Another yellow streak on its neck gives the appearance of a necklace.

Bunting populations have decreased alarmingly due to their capture during the migration season especially on their route to China. It is there they are caught with nets for illegal trade to be sold as pets, as well as for consumption for traditional medicine. Because of this, it is classified as critically endangered.

Most Endangered Animals in Europe - Yellow-breasted bunting (Emberiza aureola)

Steppe eagle (Aquila nipalensis)

The steppe eagle is within the order Accipitriformes, making them a type of diurnal bird of prey. They are distributed in Europe and central Asia. It is an eagle that occupies a wide variety of environments, although this will depend on the availability of food and they generally prefer open areas. It is more than 27" (70 cm) in length and its wingspan is over two and a half times this size.

It is an eagle that is in danger of extinction mainly due to electrocution by power lines, in addition to its killing or capture for the illegal pet trade. The use of pesticides also causes their populations to drop alarmingly in their area of distribution. For all these reasons, the steppe eagle is also part of the list of endangered animals in Europe.

Learn more different types of eagles in our related article.

Most Endangered Animals in Europe - Steppe eagle (Aquila nipalensis)

Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus)

We now look at Endangered European mammal species by looking at the Iberian lynx. They belong to the Felidae family and, as their name suggests, they are endemic to the Iberian Peninsula. They typically roam the Mediterranean scrubland where their favorite prey used to abound. This prey is the field rabbit.

The Iberian lynx has features which make them distinct among large cat species. They have tufts on their ears, a bobbed tail with black markings and sideburns of black hair on their cheeks. They are a fairly small lynx species with adult males averaging around 44 lb (20 kg).

It is the most endangered feline species in the world was on the verge of disappearing. This threat is due to the disappearance of their prey, traffic collisions and being hunted by humans, as well as infectious diseases and poisoning. Learn more with our article on why the Iberian lynx is in danger of extinction.

Most Endangered Animals in Europe - Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus)

European mink (Mustela lutreola)

Also known as the Eurasian mink, this carnivore of the Mustelidae family is distributed throughout Europe and Asia, although it has faced significant reductions in its former geographic range. It occupies environments with low watercourses and slow currents and the presence of vegetation cover on the banks. It is very sensitive to changing water conditions.

Its appearance is very similar to the American mink (Neogale vison), with whom it competes in areas where it is introduced. Thee European mink is smaller, less dark and has a white patch on its upper lip. It is a species listed in critical danger of extinction due to the introduction of exotic species such as the American mink. This is the main cause of its decline, in addition to the destruction of its habitat and illegal hunting to obtain its skin. It was the fur trade which previously posed the min's biggest threat to extinction.

Discover other species of mustelid with our article on the different types of otter species.

Most Endangered Animals in Europe - European mink (Mustela lutreola)

Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus)

Not all endangered European mammals are terrestrial. This seal of the Phocidae family inhabits the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, but currently its distribution range has been drastically reduced. There are currently very few points in its former habitat range.

It is a medium-sized pinniped, being able to reach almost 10' (3 m) in length as an adult. Currently, it is one of the most threatened types of seal, making them one of the most endangered animals in Europe. It is in critical danger of extinction due to the destruction of its habitat, the overexploitation of the fishing industry, diseases caused by poisoning by algae, pollution and the introduction of exotic species.

Most Endangered Animals in Europe - Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus)
Image: europa.cf

North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis)

This cetacean species belongs to the Balaenidae family and is distributed in the North Atlantic Ocean. Not only is it one of the largest most endangered animals in Europe, it is one of the largest animals that exist, measuring about 60' (18 m) in length.

The North Atlantic right whale is a very calm and docile species, which also tends live near the surface. This has made its hunting very accessible to humans. Due to its high fat content, its hunting and capture for the production of whale oil by whalers has occurred since ancient times. The result is that this species in danger of extinction, being one of the most threatened types of whale in the world.

Most Endangered Animals in Europe - North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis)

If you want to read similar articles to Most Endangered Animals in Europe, we recommend you visit our Endangered animals category.

  • Comeros-Raynal, G. M., et al. (2015). European Red List of marine fishes. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

  • IUCN. International Union for Conservation of Nature. 20 European Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved from: https://www.iucn.org/es/node/414.

  • Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities. viii + 48pp, 210 x 297mm.

  • Temple, H. J., & Terry, A. (Compilers). 2007. The Status and Distribution of European Mammals.
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Most Endangered Animals in Europe