Czech Carpathians

Czech Carpathian

Only a small portion of the Carpathians lie within Czech republic. Furthermore, Czech republic is part of a block of countries in Europe with small populations of the big predators, which combined with their fondness for hunting is one of the reason that wildlife has had such a problem repopulating western Europe. However they are slowly returning.

Wolves were first spotted after their return in 1990, however, it was not until around 2010 when they started making progress. and currently have a population of around 100 within the countries borders. 

There are not thought to be any bears living permanently in the country, but as there is a healthy population in Slovakia, they wonder across the border regularly – as such, it is entirely possible that eventually bears will settle full time.

Lynx are thought to have a population of around 80 Lynx within the borders of the country

As with other countries on the list, tourists visiting with the hope of seeing these animals can make a big difference to their future prospects.

Most of the Czech Republic is covered by low hills and plains, though much of the border of the country consists of mountains. Being part of this block of countries in Europe, the residents of the Czech republic have enjoyed hunting, as a result its only in recent years that they have been allowed to return. Whether these populations will be allowed to continue to exist we will wait to see, never-the-less if the population is allowed to return in central Europe, it will allow the Eastern and Western European populations of wolves bears and lynx to reconnect and allow a healthier genetic population.

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Serbia Carpathians

Serbia Carpathians

The great range of the Carpathians, that arcs across Southern and Eastern Europe, finally ends in Serbia, though the line of the mountains do continue further South and East, and run on into the Balkans.

Serbia is unfortunately best know in much of the world for the fighting that went on in the past. However, the country does not deserve to be remembered for some of its hardest times. As with other Eastern European countries around it, life still feels, for those visiting from western Europe, like stepping back in time. 

Stunning forests (they still cover 31% of the country) and rivers, there are still around 500 wolves that roam these ancient forests. Unfortunately bears are less lucky with perhaps only 50 roaming the country. You might wonder why this number is so small, and unfortunately it is due to poaching: unlike the countries around it, dancing bears have not been outlawed and so Roma often earn additional money by catching young bears for the trade. Quite apart from it being highly cruel, and the dancing doing the bears much physical damage, more often than not the bear’s mother will be killed in order to take its young.

As such, visitors expressing interest in the wild bears will over time change this position. Importantly no one visiting should ever give money to a bear owner, as this simply reinforces it value to the owner. As there are few to no rescue operations in Serbia, this is harder than elsewhere, however long-term if there is no money in keeping bears, there is no reward for capturing them.

Lynx also roam these mountains as well as other parts of Serbia.

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Slovakia Carpathians

Slovakia Carpathians

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17% of the Carpathians (or roughly 1/6) within Slovakia, and more than 80% of Slovakia lies more than 800m above sea level, so there are other areas of interest in Slovakia that I will cover in another article.

Wolf numbers for Slovakia are estimated to be between 200 and 400. Hunting organisations argue the number is between 1200 and 1800, though hunters often inflate the number of animals so that they can have higher hunting quotas. This is an incredibly short- sighted attitude, as hunters could then wipe out the wolves- ending the ability for wolves to be hunted again. Around 800 bears live in Slovakia, and likely similar numbers of lynx roam the forests as well, though as a secretive animal it is hard to be sure of precise numbers.

As with other areas in the Carpathians such as Brasov, some of the bears in Slovakia  have taken to raiding bins in human villages. They are working hard to solve this problem in a way that allows the bears to thrive, however, without success lethal controls are likely to be not far behind. As with elsewhere, tourists visiting the area for the wildlife is incredibly important as it gives the animals worth in the eyes of locals. This means that they will tolerate some inconvenience and therefore the animals will be able to thrive.

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Hungary Carpathians

Hungary Carpathians

Only a small portion of the Carpathians lie within Hungary. Furthermore, Hungary is part of a block of countries in Europe with small populations of the big predators, which combined with their fondness for hunting is one of the reason that wildlife has had such a problem repopulating western europe.

Having said that, wolves were seen to return back in 2016, and currently have a population of around 250 within the countries borders. Indeed, given Slovakia has healthy populations of all three big predators, it is not surprising that all three predators are also found in the North – where the Carpathians are found.

As with other countries on the list, tourists visiting with the hope of seeing these animals can make a big difference to their future prospects.

This is another country on the list, for which visits can make a big difference. The forests of the Hungarian Carpathians were marked for logging by the government, and permission was given to a logging company- owned and run by the government. Thankfully, the WWF mounted a successful to block this foolish shortsighted move, alongside a coalition of 180 other conservation organisations as well as a petition signed by more than 5,000 people (in just four days) with support from more than 7 million given before it was closed.

According to WWF surveys, at that time there were about 10 lynx and “dozens” of wolves. There are still 2 million hectares of forests in Hungary, so with recognition of the benefit that can be bought to local populations, we could make a big difference to the future viability of these natural forests in central Europe.

Below is a map of places to stay. We hope to add more. Do play with the map as I have tried to show the whole of the wild region of Northern Hungary, zooming in will reveal more places to stay.

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Ukraine Carpathians

Ukraine Carpathians

Ukraine hosts roughly 10% of this huge range of mountains. Ukraine is a large country, so while it hosts roughly 2,000 wolves. Estimates for the number of wolves in the Carpathians are unclear, but it is thought to be around 400. One of the reasons for this is that during the war, there was a ban on hunting, for fear that hunting gunfire would be confused with gunfire from the front line. As a result, this previously highly popular pastime has greatly reduced allowing predators to recover. Whether this will be allowed to continue is anyones guess.

The official number of bears in the Carpathian region of Ukraine is 350, however scientists on the ground put this more closely to 150-200.

Lynx are also secure in this region, though not enough study has been done to put an accurate estimate of the size of the population.

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Poland Carpathians

Polish Carpathians

While the Polish Carpathians are not vast, only consisting of about 10% of the range, it is still not a small area.

The Polish Carpathians cover roughly 7,335 square miles roughly the same size as the country of Israel or Slovenia.  The Bieszczady mountains is a low range of mountains on the eastern end of the Carpathians teeming with wildlife. A low human population in this area has allowed the wildlife to thrive, and now make this area the most important haven in Poland for Europe’s big 3 predators. Wolves, bears and lynx all thrive here, as well as a large and growing herd of bison, and many beavers.

There are a few bear hides across the area, though as yet we do not have links with any of them.

Beautiful scenery is all around you, and your presence is all that is needed to encourage its protection

Walking in the Polish Carpathians

The below map of acommodation has been positioned on the most wildlife rich region of Poland – Southern and Eastern Poland have the most wildlife. Poland currently has around 1500 wolves generally roaming this part of the country. Therefore, you stand reasonable chance of seeing wolves throughout these whole region, though patience is clearly essential. Another necessity is being out looking early in the morning and during the evening. There are also roughly 150 bears living in this region, so likewise these are there to be spotted.

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Germany – Alps

The German Alps

The German alps, like many parts of Europe, exterminated all their predators by the middle of the twentieth century. Due to its position, and an increasing acceptance of the science of how the environment there has been a less agressive reaction to various predators returning.

It should be noted that despite it being more than 30 years since east and west Germany merged to once again form one country, in terms of wildlife they still feel like very different places. West Germany exterminated most of its big predators, where as western Germany did not. The majority of the wolves do still live in areas that were under eastern German control.

It is true that bears have not yet made Germany their home. A bear entered Germany back in 2006, and while the government and local population were initially pleased, after he killed a few livestock a few attempts were made to catch him so he could be moved elsewhere. When this failed the decision was made to kill him – it should be noted, that a significant part of the population was against this decision. The hunt took over a month, with a significant outlay spent on expert hunters bought in from Finland. In the end though this failed and he was shot by a local hunter (much against the locals wishes).

In October of 2019, another bear wandered over the border again. Bavaria authorities behaved in a far better way on this occasion, and while careful note was made of where he was and what he was doing, he was left largely alone. It is unsure what happened to him, but it is clear that while without human intervention, bears are likely to eventually return to the wild in Germany, they have not yet.

A view of the German Alps

Wolves are different. There is some debate over how many wolves live in Germany at this point. It is thought that they first returned in 1998, and have been doing relatively well since. There is thought to be a little over 100 wolf packs, but a significant dispute as to an accurate number of individual animals. The government claims numbers of 400 while hunting groups claim the real figure is as high as 1300 (hunting organisations almost always over estimate, as this gives them a higher quota to keep the population in check). It is also common for hunting organisations to be paid by farming organisations, in order to keep livestock predation under control, thus giving a further incentive to over estimate, allowing them to kill more animals.

It is probably more likely that the true number lies somewhere between the estimates, perhaps around 600 individual members. They have a permanent presence in Brandenburg, Saxony and lower Saxony.

Lynx are still found widely throughout Germany, though as an incredibly shy species a sighting should be considered very lucky.

European wild cats also still roam widely throughout germany.

slovenia – Alps

The Slovenian Alps

Slovenia is a small country that lies beneath Austria and to the East of Italy. The eastern Alps run from Italy east to Slovenia, and ends within its borders.

Slovenia is an incredibly mountainous country, with more than 90% lying more than 200m above sea level. It is also still more than 50% forest. Between these two facts, Slovenia is very welcoming to wildlife.

Apart from sizable numbers of Chamois and Ibex as well as marmots, they have plenty of deer, boar and hares. Small predators consist of foxes badgers wild cats and jackels. In terms of bigger predators, there are 40-60 wolves, about 450 bears, and about 40 lynx.

Now while some of these numbers sound small, you have to remember that this is a small country. As such its bear population is density is far higher than other countries in the region. The wolf numbers are low, however, again, given the small size of the country, they will largely share their wolves with the countries around it.

If you are looking for predators Kocevsko forests are the place that you should spend the majority of your time. In the summer months, bear watching is most common. The majority of wolf tours are done during winter, where you can look for the wolf tracks in the snow. Having said that, these animals are wild and can turn up at any time.

Slovenian Alps and lak

Lichtenstein – Alps

Leichtenstein Alps

Leichtenstein is a tiny country, consisting of 160 square km or 62 square miles. As such, while it will have its own population of chamois and Ibex, any population of the large predators is shared with countries around it.

Ineed, it is not thought that any of these animals have set up territories within Leichtenstein, though they doubtless come through on occasion.

Lichtenstein may be small but it is all mountainous

The majority of Leichtenstein economy is related to finance, which it has significant numbers of organisations to service.

With healthy populations of Ibex and marmots, as well as foxes and badgers and other smaller mammals, it is never the less to small to have any of the big 3 living permanently within its borders. A wolf pack could easily have a territory of several hundred miles, which in this case would include more than the entire country.

However as the populations of these large predators grow in the rest of the Alps, they are likely to appear here more regularly. Both bears and Lynx could eventually make this small country home.

In any event, with much of the country available for wildlife, any wild oriented holiday can only help improve the outlook of these animals. Hiking in the mountains are still likely to be rewarded with sightings of deer, chamois, possibly ibex and a range of other animals. Always make clear you are interested in the wildlife of the area when you visit, this will make it more likely that the animals will stay.

Below is a map of places to stay. Being a small country there are not that many to choose from, though it is worth remembering that staying across the border and driving in for the day – or indeed several days will not take up much of your time.

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Switzerland – Alps

Switzerland Alps

The Italian Alps cover an area of consists of 13.2% of the whole of the alps though the alps cover 60% of the country an area of around 25,000 square km, which is nearly 15,000 square miles. As in other countries within the Alps, the common species to be spotted include the Ibex and the Chamois


The impressive Switzerland alps

In Switzerland the big predators where also ruthlessly hunted. In one area they recently had vote on the future of hunting in the Canton (essentially a county) of Zurich- the population voted 84% against. In a country with such beautiful scenery, it should not be a surprise that there are so many people supporting outdoor sports.

However, any hunting should be kept at levels low enough that the ecosystem can continue to recover from its artificially low start point. Once again, if visitors make it clear that they are there to see the wildlife, it will give it a higher financial value.

Wolves have returned to Switzerland, in recent years, and there are now thought to be about 80 living within the country. As with other largely Alpine countries, Switzerland is a country in which the wolf would flourish without human persecution, and so the population has been growing fast. They crossed the border from Italy about the same time that they crossed into France. As such in the last 25 years they have not managed to increase in number as much as they have in France. Current predictions suggest a wolf population of around 300 in 2030. Though initially causing significant problems to the local sheperds by returning to old methods like having dogs live with the sheep, this habit has largely been bought under control. Certainly a country where wolf tourism should encourage a more positive view of the animals that share the mountains with their sheep. Currently, wolves who are proved to be killing sheep can be killed, though the population is looking to relax the protection of wolves. If this happened we would likely see the wolf becoming extinct within Switzerlands borders once again.

 There is not a permanent population of bears within Switzerland. A number of individuals have wandered across the border over the last decade, unfortunately each has either left on its own accord, or been killed reasonably quickly. With an increase of wildlife tourism, and natural adaption (much of which is needed for the now present wolves) we can hope that in the next few decades space is made for the bear to return in a more permanent capacity.

There are only thought to be about 150 lynx, which unfortunately is a similar story to France. The Jura mountains where lynx were reintroduced in the 1970s run along the border between the two countries.

As with other countries that house part of the Alps, adapting to share the this landscape with predators once more, has not been easy, however a steady flow of tourists that are looking to experience this wildlife, will likely help greatly in changing this mindset.

Other wildlife to look out for in the Switzerland alps include red deer, and for birders, Golden eagles and bearded vultures still call these mountains home.

The map below shows place within Switzerland that are available to stay. Zoom in on specific areas to see more places available.

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Back to the main Switzerland page

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