Endangered Species in the Carpathian Mountains

Wolf

Grey wolf (<i>Canis lupus</i>). / ©: WWF-Canon / Chris Martin BAHR
Grey wolf (Canis lupus).
© WWF-Canon / Chris Martin BAHR
Although approximately five million people live in and around the Romanian Carpathians, wolves, along with bears and lynxes, have one of their European strongholds in this mountain range.
They are distributed almost continuously over the Carpathian Mountains and their population densities are very high compared to other parts in Europe.

After World War II, wolves were present in all forested parts of Romania and numbered over 4,000 animals. However, excessive livestock depredation occurred and as a result in 1955, the government launched a campaign to control wolf numbers.

Intensive hunting, trapping, searching for wolf dens to kill the pups, and particularly the use of poison, reduced wolves to a low level up until the late sixties.

By 1967, the wolf population had declined to about 1,500 and only the remoteness of the mountains and the increasing number of deer and wild boar saved the wolf from even further decline.

Due to the fact that other species, such as brown bears, wild boar, and birds of prey, also suffered from poisoning, the use of poison was forbidden in 1991.

Until then, the wolf population had continued to increase slowly and, according to official numbers, reached about 3,100 individuals in 1996. This represents about 30% of all European wolves west of Russia.

Brown Bear

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Darren Jew
Brown bears, Ursus arctos, Nalychevo Nature Park.
© WWF-Canon / Darren Jew
Few animals have captured the imagination like brown bears. They can stand on two legs, have eyes in the front of their heads, walk on the soles of their feet, pick things up with their 'fingers', eat what we eat and nurse their young as we do.
Brown bears can grow to a huge size, males up to 350kg, females to 200kg. The biggest brown bear was caught in Romania - 480kg.

Their diet varies with the season, from grass and shoots in the spring to berries and apples in the summer, nuts and plums in the fall and all year round they eat roots, insects, mammals and reptiles, and, of course, honey.

Bears leave scratch marks on trees. The marks can be easily recognised by three to five parallel scratches in the bark from the nails of the paw.

They have good hearing, an excellent sense of smell and can live for up to 30 years. The males are solitary animals, socialising only during the mating season.

The Carpathians are home to about 8,000 brown bears in Slovakia, Poland, the Ukraine and Romania, the second largest population in Europe.

Bears are considered of high priority in conservation. Given their dependence on large natural areas, they are important management indicators for a number of other wildlife species.

This understanding has been reflected in their protection status in international legislation such as the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention, Bern, 1979), where the brown bear is listed in Appendix II (strictly protected species), the EU Habitats Directives and the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (PEBLDS).

Lynx

Lynx are like most cats: they have terrific eyesight, especially at night, and better hearing than humans.

That's why it's so difficult to spot them; they are most active in the early morning and late at night - when they can see, but we can't.

The Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx in the Carpathians normally live above 1000m, resting on cliffs and rocks, out of human reach, but watching and curious all the time. In wintertime, they may follow their prey down to lower altitudes where there is less snow.

But they never attack people or other large carnivores such as bears or wolves. Bears and wolves sometimes steal their kill, so the lynx has adapted by hiding leftovers beneath rocks, leaves or branches.

Lynx feed off hares, birds, wildcats, chamois, deer, boar and sometimes stray dogs, but not livestock like the other carnivores. So they're not a nuisance to people.

The lynx population in the Carpathians is officially estimated to be about 2,500 - the densest in Europe.

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