The Picos de Europa are home to a wealth of animal-life, due to the range of habitats, from river-valleys at almost sea-level, to alpine habitat in the high mountains.
One emblem of the national park is the "rebeco", or chamois, a small deer-like animal that is almost always seen when venturing into high altitudes. They are graceful and agile, putting even the best mountaineer to shame. Somehow they find enough to eat in the high mountain landscape, moving down to lower altitudes over winter.
Probably the most famous animal in the area is the Cantabrian brown bear. According to the Asturias-based "Fund for the protection of wild animals" (FAPAS), only 21 family groups were counted in the 2009 census. The small eastern population of three family groups roams an area that debatably includes the southernmost reaches of the Picos de Europa. Sightings of the bears, and even of their footprints, are extremely rare.
Also extremely rare is the wolf, of which 15 to 20* are reported to live in the national park. More numerous, though well hidden, are small carnivores such as the genet, marten, wild cat, stoat, otter, fox, badger, polecat, and weasel. Wild boars are not often seen, but patches of earth they have turned over whilst foraging for roots in pastures are a common sight. Several species of bat live in the Picos de Europa, some of them roosting in the limestone caves, and are often to be seen on the wing at dusk. Roe deer can be seen in the woodlands, where there are also occasional sightings of red squirrel, their red so dark they appear almost black. Red deer roam the forests of Sajambre.
One of the rarest birds in the mountains is the capercaillie, and its numbers are declining - it is estimated that about 100* breeding males survive (males are easier to reckon because of their mating behavior). Another rare bird is the golden eagle, of which there are only a few breeding pairs within the Picos de Europa. There are also two species of vulture, the Egyptian and the griffon, often seen circling overhead. One species of particular interest is the wallcreeper, which lives on steep rock-faces in inaccessible places, and is therefore difficult to see despite its red wings. More likely to be seen are the alpine choughs, cheeky energetic birds who often loiter outside the mountain refuges. Mention should also be made of the black woodpecker, middle spotted woodpecker, treecreeper, snow finch, alpine accentor, eagle owl, peregrine, and there are even sporadic sightings of lammergeier.
Lizards are not everyone's cup of tea, but the fire salamander is a stunning little chap, small and slow-moving, with a bright gold or orange design burnt onto a black background. There are fifteen* species of reptile in all, the most obvious being the multitudes of small fast brown lizards that dart for cover on sunny days. Despite the lack of water there are amphibians too, such as the newts occasionally seen paddling around the bottoms of cattle-troughs.
In spring and summer, butterflies abound, particularly in the traditional wild-flower meadows of lower altitudes. 124* species have been identified in the Picos de Europa to date. Some of these are listed as being endangered, such as the marsh fritillary, and the apollo.
The larger rivers at the foot of the mountains host salmon and trout.
* Figures from the "Ministry of the Environment" National Parks department.