Croatia’s enchanting wildlife

Lynx Croatia

April 29, 2015 • Articles

Numerous animal and plant species live In Croatia’s relatively small area, some endemic and some that spread in various other areas in Europe and Asia. We wish to present you animals that live in our mountains, forests, meadows, marshes, rivers and the sea – Croatia is small but it has everything on the list!

Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx)

European lynx CroatiaThe Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx) is a medium-sized cat native to European and Siberian forests, Central Asia and East Asia. It is the largest lynx species, with length up to 130 cm and a tail up to 24 cm. It has powerful, relatively long legs, with large webbed and furred paws that act like snowshoes; its tail is short and bobbed with all-black tip, black tufts of hair on its ears, and a long grey-and-white ruff. The underparts of the animal, including neck and chin, are white at all times of the year, while the fur changes colour and density depending on the season. The fur is almost always marked with black spots. They have been observed to mew, hiss, growl, and purr like domestic cats. They are very secretive – their presence in an area may go unnoticed for years. Lynx prey largely on small to fairly large sized mammals and birds (hares, rabbits, marmots, squirrels etc.).

Grey wolf  (Canis lupus)

Gray wolf CroatiaThe Grey wolf (Canis lupus) is a canid native to the wilderness and remote areas of North America, Eurasia, and some parts of Africa. It is the largest extant member of its family, with males reaching up to 45 kg, and females up to 38 kg. Its winter fur is long and bushy, and predominantly a mottled grey in colour, although nearly pure white, red or brown to black may also occur. It is a social animal, travelling in nuclear families consisting of a mated pair, accompanied by the pair’s adult offspring. They hunt large prey, but also eat smaller animals, livestock, carrion and even garbage. Although the fear of wolves is pervasive in many human societies, the majority of recorded attacks on people have been attributed to animals suffering from rabies. They usually live away from people, and have been taught to fear humans by hunters and shepherds – but just in case, stay far away!

Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra)

Salamander CroatiaThe Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra) is an amphibian, one of the most well-known salamander species in (central) Europe. It is black with yellow (sometimes orange or red) spots or stripes that can vary in the degree of body coverage. They live in forests and are more common in hilly areas, hiding in fallen leaves and around mossy tree trunks. They are mostly active when it’s dark, but you can see them during daytime if it rains. The Fire Salamanders eat various insects, spiders, earthworms and slugs and can grow to be 15-25 centimetres long. It is characterised by its defence mechanism – if they are grasped by a predator they can exude toxic skin secretions that can cause strong muscle convulsions and hypertension combined with hyperventilation. Some are potentially dangerous to human life, so just observe, don’t touch!

Horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes)

Horned viper CroatiaThe Horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes) is a venomous viper species that is reputed to be the most dangerous of the European vipers because of its large size, long fangs and high venom toxicity. It can grow up to 95 centimetres long, and has a distinctive characteristic of a single horn on the snout. Both sexes have a zigzag dorsal stripe set against a lighter background. One of the other common name is sand viper – very misleading since it prefers rocky habitats, and does not occur in really sandy areas. Despite its reputation, it is not at all aggressive and will not bite unless provoked. If bitten, you’ll experience pain, swelling and discoloration of the area – go to the hospital and tell them what bit you; be sure it was that particular snake (the horn!) because antivenin is made from the venom and can hurt you if it wasn’t!

European Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis)

Green lizard CroatiaThe European Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis) is a large lizard (can reach up to 15 cm of body length, with the tail being twice the size) that can be seen sunning on rocks or lawns, or sheltering amongst bushes. It can shed its tail to evade the grasp of a predator and regrow it later. Their bodies are green (males have small spots on their backs) with bluish throats. It lives only on the ground and in low, dense vegetation and likes to sunbathe early or late in the day. It feeds mainly on insects and other small invertebrates. It is not dangerous to humans but it can bite. It is highly protected in Croatia due to habitat loss, so please leave it where you see it!

European Pine Marten (Martes martes)

Marten CroatiaThe European Pine Marten (Martes martes) is about the size of a domestic cat – the body can reach up to 53 centimetres in length, and their bushy tails can be as far as 25 centimetres long. Their fur is usually light to dark brown and grows longer and silkier during the winter months. They have a cream to yellow coloured marking on their throats. They usually like living in well-wooded areas, with dens in hollow trees or scrub-covered fields. Martens are mainly active at night and dusk, and eat small mammals, birds, insects and carrion. European Pine Martens are territorial animals that mark their range by depositing faeces (called scats, black and twisted with a reputedly floral odour!) in prominent locations. Unfortunately, it’s one of the rare species hunted purely for fun and with deforestation it’s becoming more and more endangered. Because of its fur’s significant role in Croatia’s monetary and fiscal history, its Croatian name kuna was given to Croatia’s currency.

Ural Owl (Strix uralensis)

Ural owl CroatiaThe Ural Owl (Strix uralensis) is a medium-sized nocturnal owl – smaller than the great grey owl and much larger than the tawny owl. It has pale, buff grey-brown plumage, with copious dark brown streaking on the back, an orange-yellow bill and small black eyes. Length can range from 50 to 61 centimetres with a wingspan of 110 to 134 centimetres. They usually occupy open woodland and are more often found in moist rather than dry areas, mostly nesting in hollow tree trunks. It is a very aggressive owl, chasing other birds of prey from its territory, and it will attack human intruders, especially when young are present. The Ural Owl feeds on rodents and medium-sized to large birds (such as jays).

White Stork (Ciconia ciconia)

White stork CroatiaThe White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) is a large bird in the stork family with mainly white plumage, black on its wings. Adult White storks have long red legs and long pointed red beaks, and can measure up to 115 cm from beak tip to the end of the tail, with a wingspan up to 210 cm. It is a long distance migrant, wintering in Africa or on the Indian subcontinent. It feeds on a wide range of animal prey, including insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals and small birds. It is monogamous, but does not pair for life – together with its mate it builds a large stick nest that may be used for several years. They can best be viewed in the village of Čigoć, the first European Stork Village, located in Sisak-Moslavina County where almost every house has a stork nest.

European Otter (Lutra lutra)

Otter CroatiaThe European Otter (Lutra lutra) is a typical freshwater otter. It is brown, with cream colour below, and can reach up to 95 cm of length, with a tail up to 45 cm. Their diets are varied and adaptable so they may inhabit any unpolluted body of fresh water as long as the food supply is adequate. They mainly feed on fish, but during winter they also eat amphibians, crustaceans, insects, birds and sometimes small mammals. European otters are strongly territorial, living alone for the most part – the territories are only held against members of the same sex so those of males and females may overlap. They mainly hunt at night and usually spend their days in their dens – usually a burrow or hollow tree on the riverbank which can sometimes be entered from the underwater.

European Hare (Lepus europaeus)

Hare CroatiaThe European Hare (Lepus europaeus), also known as the brown hare, is a mammal adapted to temperate, open country. It relies on its speed in order to escape predators (birds of prey, canids and felids) and is generally nocturnal and shy in nature. During spring, they go into frenzy and can be seen in broad daylight chasing one another around fields and meadows. They are herbivorous and feed on grasses, herbs, twigs, buds, bark and field crops. The European hare can reach up to 75 cm of body length, with a tail length up to 13 cm. It has elongated ears that can reach up to 11 cm, and long hind legs. The fur colour is grizzled yellow-brown on the back, white on the underside and black on the tail and ear tips. Its musculature is adapted for high-speed endurance running (up to 70 km/h) in open areas.

Eurasian Brown Bear (Ursus arctos arctos)

Brown bear CroatiaThe Eurasian Brown Bear (Ursus arctos arctos) is a brown bear found across Eurasia, North America, and formerly in Africa. It has brown dense fur, a quite round head with relatively small and round ears, and a mouth equipped with 42 teeth. It has a powerful bone structure, large paws (with claws that can grow up to 10 cm in length). A full grown male can weigh on average up to 300 kg (the largest recorded brown bear weighed 481 kg). It is primarily nocturnal, but can be seen in mornings and early evening hours. During winter it becomes very lethargic – they are not full hibernators and can be woken easily. It is one of the most omnivorous animals in the world and has been recorded as consuming the greatest variety of foods of any bear – food that is both abundant and easily accessed or caught is preferred. When forced to live in close proximity with humans and their domesticated animals, bears may potentially predate any type of domestic animal or eat any plants and fruit farmed by humans. Bears become attracted to human-created food sources, such as garbage dumps, litter bins and dumpsters. Brown bears seldom attack humans on sight, and usually avoid people, but are unpredictable in temperament, and may attack if they are surprised or feel threatened.

These are just a couple of animals that live in our country, most of them are protected by law and/or are potentially dangerous for human life so be wary – do not overstep your grounds! Larger animals are best viewed in zoos or for example, the brown bear can be viewed in Kuterevo bear sanctuary that we already wrote about – so check it out!

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