Gorski kotar – the habitat of large carnivores

The mountainous part of the Primorje-Gorski Kotar County steeply rises above the Kvarner Bay. With its diverse forests and rocky peaks, colorful fields and meadows, impressive caves, sparkly streams and mountain rivers, Gorski Kotar has been offering shelter to large carnivores for ages. The most secluded and the most mysterious of them all – the lynx – was exterminated from these areas, but thanks to human endeavor, it has been brought back to this place. Today, along with bears and wolves, lynxes are regular inhabitants of Gorski Kotar.

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Forests, particularly fir and beech forests (Omphalodo-Fagetum), cover more than 80 percent of the area, giving the fundamental natural and economic value to Gorski Kotar. Many of the inhabitants are in some way related to forestry, as it is the core and traditional activity in this area. With the surface of 1275 km2, and the population density of only twenty inhabitants per sq. kilometer, Gorski Kotar is a sparsely populated area. Yet, the pristine nature and mountainous landscape are the key prerequisites for the development of mountain tourism, which is increasingly popular and becomes the driver of Gorski Kotar’s success.

Diverse mountainous reliefs, from the peaks of Bjelolasica (1533 m) and Risnjak (1528 m) to the source of the Kupa River (321 m), still hide some areas that are so rarely visited by man, thus making perfect habitats for large carnivores. The preserved habitat that supports the populations of bears, wolves and lynxes has given Gorski kotar the status of Natura 2000 area. Gorski Kotar is the home to numerous animals and plants, of more than 30 species of birds, such as the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), the Ural owl (Strix uralensis), the black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius), the boreal owl (Aegolius funereus) and many others. With the already existing system of protected areas, it is evident that Gorski Kotar is the place of an exceptionable biological diversity.

These natural treasures and diversity give us the hope that we would be able to enjoy the protected ecological system in decades to come, and have memorable encounters with the large carnivores and the trails of their presence. Gorski Kotar, as a vast natural unit in the center of which rises Risnjak Mountain, the only national park in the Primorje-Gorski Kotar county, still connects the dense forests of the Dinarides with the area of the Alps. And, after hundred years, large carnivores have begun to occupy this place again.