Wildlife

Velebit’s fauna is remarkably interesting and diverse. With an area of 2200 km2 it presents habitats for species with big home ranges such as large carnivores, the chamois, the golden eagle and the capercaillie.

Velebit wildlife

Due to geographical location and relief, Velebit has a variety of different habitats – forests, pastures, watercourses, rocks and screes. For this reason, Velebit is home to many species of animal, plant and fungi. Because the highest parts of Velebit have a true mountain climate, there you can find typical mountain species like edelweiss, mountain pine, alpine chough, white-backed woodpecker, boreal owl, chamois and many others.

Velebit’s fauna is remarkably interesting and diverse. With an area of 2200 km2 it presents habitats for species with big home ranges such as large carnivores, the chamois, the golden eagle and the capercaillie. Apart from these charismatic animals, there we can find many other species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates like butterflies and other insects.

Due to the exquisite richness of its underground habitats, Velebit is important for many different endemic species of underground fauna.

On Velebit you can see numerous Mediterranean, continental and mountain plant species. Among them there are a lot of endemic species like Velebit degenia and Croatian sibirea.
In the forests and on the meadows of Velebit, there are numerous fungi – such as the dotted stem bolete, which grows in symbiosis with spruce trees. Although they have an important role in ecosystems, fungi are frequently overlooked and poorly known. Many of them are saprotrophs, forming an important part of the nutrient cycle in nature.

Even though its magnificence has attracted numerous researchers for many years, it is still possible to discover something new and contribute to the knowledge about the richness of biological, geomorphological and paleontological treasury of Velebit mountain.

Trails

Velike zvijeri

Na području Velebita obitavaju sve tri vrste velikih zvijeri srednje i istočne Europe – smeđi medvjed (Ursus arctos), vuk (Canis lupus) i ris (Lynx lynx). Riječ je o skrovitim životinjama koje se plaše čovjeka. U zimskim mjesecima moguće je uočiti znakove njihove prisutnosti – otiske u snijegu ili izmet.

Brown bear (Ursus arctos)
govelebit_medvjedBrown bear is a massive and strong animal, with a very good sense of smell and good hearing. It eats fruit, sprouts, underground parts of plants, larvae, insects and carrion. Brown bear is an opportunistic animal so it is very important not to leave garbage in the vicinity of mountain huts and hiking trails to prevent bears getting used to the presence of people.

Lynx (Lynx lynx)
govelebit_riseviThe lynx was extinct in Croatia from the beginning of the 20th century. Today’s population is the result of a reintroduction project that took place in Slovenia in 1973. Nowadays it is present in the areas of Gorski kotar and Lika. Its diet consists of roe deer, red deer, chamois, rabbits and big rodents. While hunting, the lynx stalks and pounces its prey, which can be three to four times bigger than itself, and he usually feeds on it for several days.

Horned viper (Vipera ammodytes)
govelebit_poskokThe horned viper is one of the biggest and most venomous European vipers. It inhabits dry, rocky areas with low vegetation and trees. It can be easily identified by the dark “zig-zag” stripe on its back and a horn on its snout. It can be seen basking half hidden in vegetation or on a rock. The horned viper is a strictly protected species in Croatia along with almost all other reptile species. It doesn’t attack humans, except when it feels threatened, and the most of the recorded bites have been the result of deliberate disturbance by people.

Meadow viper (Vipera ursinii macrops)
govelebit_ursinii_maleThe meadow viper is the smallest and least known of the vipers in Croatia. It is an endemic species of the Balkan peninsula and for its living space it chooses meadows with altitudes over 1000 m. It eats mostly grasshoppers and its venom is significantly weaker than the horned viper’s. It is interesting that in the early spring male meadow vipers wake up from hibernation earlier than females so it is possible to see them even in the snow.

Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus)
govelebit_supOn the Velebit mountain, the griffon vulture has stopped nesting 20 years ago, and today in Croatia it nests only on the islands of Kvarner (Cres, Krk, Plavnik, Prvić). Griffon vultures that belong to these populations can disperse more than ten kilometres away from their nesting colonies in search for food, which is why it is possible to see griffon vultures on different parts of Velebit.

Croatian sibirea (Sibiraea altaiensis ssp. croatica)
govelebit_sibirejaCroatian sibirea is a species of deciduous shrubs from the rose family, that lives on rocky soils and screes in mountain parts. An important locality for this species is the botanical garden “Visibaba” in Northern Velebit National Park. It has small, white flowers that are arranged in a loose elongated panicle, which can be seen during June and July.

Velebit degenia (Degenia velebitica)
govelebit_velebitskadegenijaVelebit degenia is certainly the best known endemic species of Velebit and Croatia in general. It inhabits harsh habitats – screes exposed to strong winds. Velebit degenia, which blossoms in May and June, has been recorded only in three localities in the world and all three are on Velebit. Therefore, one who sees this special plant during his stay on Velebit, can consider himself really fortunate.

Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra)
govelebit_divokozeThirty years ago, the chamois was reintroduced in Velebit, and today it can often be seen on mountain summits on terrain it is well adapted for. It inhabits mountain pastures and rocky pastures during most of the year but in winter it descends to the lower parts of mountains. Chamois are cautious and timid animals, so when one of them feels threatened, it warns the others with a sharp whistle.

Apollo (Parnassius apollo)
govelebit_apolloThe apollo lives at altitudes between 1000 and 2000 meters on Velebit, in mountain pastures and rocky habitats. The most recognizable characteristic of this butterfly are spots in the shape of red rings with white centres, surrounded by black stripes. An interesting fact is that every specimen of this species has a different ring shape, just like human fingerprints.

White-backed woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos)
govelebit_leucotosThe white-backed woodpecker inhabits mature forests, which have a high percentage of dead trees and fallen timber. It is slightly bigger than the great spotted woodpecker, a species that is present in abundance. The well-preserved forests of Velebit and Lika are home for a few hundred pairs of this species, which makes one quarter of the Croatian population. The Velebit population of the white-backed woodpecker belongs to the subspecies “lilfordi” and is different from the rest of the members of this species in north and west Europe.

Rosalia longicorn (Rosalia alpina)

govelebit_rosalialpinaThe rosalia longicorn is one of the most beautiful ground beetles in Croatia. It lives in beech forests – due to logging, its numbers have seen a decline in the whole of Europe. The population trend in Croatia is unknown.

Interactive map