Bear – a biggest terrestrial carnivore in Croatia sometimes causes conflicts. Coexistence with the brown bear (Ursus arctos), as well as other large carnivores, is possible only if the local community accepts their presence. Acceptance is not always easy. It depends of the ratio of the positive and negative effects caused by the bear in the area. In another words, it depends on how much damage bears produce, or how much community can profit through non-consuming (bear watching) and consuming (hunting) tourist exploitation. However, the mental concept of bears as a natural part of a local habitat is the biggest positive factor. Question is – how to reach and maintain that?
Research/Scientific or Technical Services
Grad Zagreb, Croatia
Bear population in Croatia was very low during the Second World War - less than 100. After the War bear became fully protected species which brought an interesting saying in parts of Croatia “Protected as a bear”. Since the 1950’s only the high politicians were allowed to hunt, when in the 1960’s , even the hunters from abroad got permission to hunt in exchange for trophy value. The hunting continued, but thanks to the good management planning, it went together with the constant raising of population – to almost 1000 individuals today.
That number is almost completely aligned with what is called “ecological capacity” and “social capacity”. “Ecological capacity” happens when the bear population stabilizes itself, while “social capacity” indicates the number of bears that communities can accept. While in some countries social capacity is almost zero, which means that people don’t want bears in their countries at all, in Croatia the situation is different. Moreover, according to two studies (2002, 2008) communities that live in the bear habitat area are in favor of growing bear population.
How did this happen?
Thanks to the group from a Faculty of veterinary medicine, led by scientist– prof. PhD, Đuro Huber who has dedicated his life to bear research in Croatia. Back in 1981 prof. Huber led the bear tracking and monitoring project, second of that kind in Europe. The first bear he collared with radio-transmitter was young female bear named Lili in National Park Plitvice Lakes (see photo 1). Since then he didn’t stop. Prof. Huber and his team have collared altogether 60 bears. All collected information from radio tracking, together with DNA analysis is used not only for scientific purposes but also for education, awareness raising as well as for bear management planning. Moreover, prof. Huber’s team is the key factor in numerous national and international projects, like construction of green bridges on highways, installation of fences, education on bear-proof waste management, which all lead to better coexistence of bears and humans.
The number of wolves and lynx were assessed for whole forest complexes, not for particular administrative and economic units such as forest districts or hunting districts. Within the forest complexes, 70 inventory divisions were set up, including several forest districts and possibly a national park, separated from other parts of the complex by distinct natural or anthropogenic barriers, which could form the boundaries of the wolves and lynx territories. In each such area a coordinator was appointed, who directed the work of all units within its borders. Also in each superintendence and national park were people responsible for organization of counting and data collection. The inventory was based on two basic field activities: a year-long collection of all carnivores observations and coordinated winter traces. This was a non-binding measure implemented by Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences in the frame of National wolf and lynx inventory in forest superintendents and national parks in the whole country in the Instytut Biologii Ssaków Polskiej Akademii Nauk, ul. Stoczek 1, 17-230 Białowieża. It specifically involved Foresters, General public, Administrative staff (government). It operated for 12 years (from 2000 to 2012) and received partial financial support from Own funds, financial support of the.Please reply to this post for more information or reach out directly to Stefan Jakimiuk.
Main project actions: 1. Population monitoring and scientific research on carnivores. During the winter there was intense tracking of wolves and lynx, and bear traces were also recorded. In the spring and summer, carnivores were found on walking transect networks. Carnivores, as well as all other traces of their presence - faeces, urine marking and scratching, remnants of prey, lairs - were recorded in databases of the same structure as the database of nationwide wolf and lynx inventory. 2. Prevention of damage caused by large carnivores in breeding livestock. 3. Conservation of habitats for large carnivores. Identification of young breeding and breeding sites, as well as bears, has allowed the development of recommendations and actions to protect the habitats of large carnivores in the region. 4. Education of the society. The Association for Nature Wolf ran various forms of education devoted to large carnivores. Between 1996 and 2013 more than 80 lectures, lectures and trainings were held, attended by more than 3,000 adults,pupils, and children from kindergartens. The Association also organizes Wolf Workshops, which train volunteers to help in collecting data about wolves in the field. 5. Rehabilitation of animals and restoring them to the environment. During the project several wolves and lynx were found, which required direct help. 6. Protection of transboundary populations. The study of the wolves in the Beskid Żywiecki has shown how important they are to the conservation status of this predator in the Polish Natura 2000 sites Based on the results of the research, The Association for Nature Wolf lobbied for a cross-border approach to the protection of common populations of large carnivores. This was a non-binding measure implemented by The Association for Nature Wolf in the frame of The protection of large carnivores in the Western Carpathians in a province in the Stowarzyszenie dla Natury Wilk, Twardorzeczka, ul. Cynkowa 4, 34-324 Lipowa. It specifically involved Beekeepers, Livestock risers, Foresters, General public, Administrative staff (government). It operated for 20 years (from 1997 to 2017) and received partial financial support from Own funds, EuroNatur Foundation (Gerrmany), International Fund for Animal Welfare (USA), Wolves and Humans Foundation (Great Britain) and own funds of The Association for Nature Wolf..Please reply to this post for more information or reach out directly to Stefan Jakimiuk.
Information on the conservation status of wolves and lynx in the country, including information on population status, habitat assessment, population perspectives and overall conservation status of these species. Information gained from the comparative analysis of the results of this project with the results of other projects on the use of the most up-to-date monitoring methods, including the introduction of wolf genetic testing methods, and the coherence of the results of monitoring carried out under the National Monitoring of Environment with monitoring results at the level of Natura 2000 sites in the framework of the implementation of the conservation plans and security plans nature conservation authorities. This was a non-binding measure implemented by Polish Chief Inspectorate for Environmental Protection in the frame of Pilotage monitoring of the populations of wolf and lynx in Poland in the whole country in the the whole country - pilot ongoing project. It specifically involved Hunters, Foresters, General public, Administrative staff (government). It operated in 2017 and received partial financial support from EU funds, Project co-financed by EU funds under the Infrastructure and Environment Operational Program 2014-2020, within the framework of the 2nd Axis of Environmental Priority, including adaptation to climate change. Action 2.4 Nature protection and ecological education, implemented in the Environmental Monitoring and Information Department of the General Inspectorate for Environmental Protection..Please reply to this post for more information or reach out directly to Ing. Slavomir Findo CSc..
Today, there are close to 1000 bears in Croatia which is almost the perfect number from both, “ecological and social capacity” point of view. That represents a positive number and a positive example for the whole Europe. Prof. Huber believes that his study is helping to secure the long-term survival of the bear population as well as human-bear coexistence. So do we. Thank you, professor!
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