The Pyrenean desman is a small semiaquatic, globally threatened mammal related to moles and shrews. These animals are covered in dark, brownish fur, with the exception of their tail and nose. The nose is black and is covered in vibrissae (facial hairs), which desmans use to feel the movement of prey as they stick their nose into mud or crevices while searching for food. Pyrenean desmans have large webbed feet with fringed hairs to increase the swimming surface and can close off their nostrils and ears to stop water penetration.
Pyrenean desmans are found in north and central parts of Spain and Portugal, French Pyrenees, and Andorra. They mostly occur in fast-flowing, mountainous rivers with shallow waters and good riparian galleries. Pyrenean desmans may also occur in canals, lakes, and marshes.
Pyrenean desmans are nocturnal and territorial animals. Males have a slightly larger territory than females and both males and females scent mark. They are thought to be aggressive towards other adult members of the species. Pyrenean desmans are proficient swimmers, suited to their aquatic habitat, although their claws also allow them to be good at climbing. During the day they shelter in crevices among stones and roots in stream banks or in burrows constructed by water voles. Sometimes they may also dig their own burrows.
Pyrenean desmans are monogamous and both males and females have only one partner during the breeding season. They breed up to three times a year, usually from January to May. The gestation period lasts around thirty days. Females give birth to 3-4 pups in each litter. Young desmans become reproductively mature when they are 2 years old.
Main threats to Pyrenean desmans include habitat fragmentation and water pollution. They also suffer from fishermen who believe that desmans are a threat to fish stocks, especially trout, or from over-eager collectors. Other threats include invasive species, like American mink who escape from fur farms, and climate change.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Pyrenean desman is unknown. However, there is an estimated population of the species in Portugal which contains less than 10,000 mature individuals. Currently, Pyrenean desmans are classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.