HOME OF WILD BEASTS
Expert associate: Hrvatska agencija za okoliš i prirodu /Croatian Agency for Environment and Nature/
Can you guess which three wild beasts visit Ponikve?
Croatia is one of few countries in Europe where there are still three wild beasts living and Ponikve can be pleased with a fact that all of them have chosen this area for their habitat. The presence of bears, wolves and lynxes is a sign of great natural wealth and preservation of this habitat which is very important for the preservation of these species.
Wild beasts are predators on the top of a feeding pyramid. They mostly attack easier to catch, weaker and unhealthy animals and thus affect natural selection. We also call them top species for they contribute to the preservation of other species and their habitats.
Wolf and lynx are strictly protected species banned for hunting, while brown bear is a protected species allowed for hunting. If we add to the diverse animal world some poisonous snakes such as adder and viper and a fact that a jackal was seen in the area, it is important to know that while staying in Ponikve you really need caution!
Identity card: grey wolf (Canis Lupus)
Row: beasts (Carnivora)
Family: dogs (Canidae)
Length adult individual: 125-180cm
Body mass: 30-40kg
Wolf's fur is grey. The back and tail are dark grey, while the color towards the abdomen and the legs passes into light grey. There is a narrow, dark stripe on his front legs. His body shape is adopted to running. A wolf has four toes on the back and five on the front legs. He never uses first five front toes (thumb, inner side of the leg) for standing. He walks on the tips of his toes. The body weight of an adult wolf in Croatia is 30 to 40kilograms. The length of the body from the muzzle to the end of tail ranges from 125 to 180centimeters, height from 60 to 70centimeters.
A wolf hasn't got large demands when it comes to habitat, only requires enough prey and shelter. Around the world he lives in different habitat from forest areas to deserts. Because of his ability to adapt and survive even in conditions cruel to humans, a wolf is a true symbol of wilderness.
A WAY OF LIFE
A wolf lives in a herd where each member knows where his place within the community is. Parential couple has got the most important role and is generally reproduced within the pack, while other members are their descendants of different ages who build a relationship of supremacy and subordination.
An average herd in Croatia is 4 to 6 wolves. A wolf is a territorial animal and heavily defends the territory of his herd. When a wolf from another territory gets lost,"host wolves“ can kill him or under certain circumstances even accept him as a new member.
Wolf's main sources of food are roe deer, deer, wild boar and small mammals (rabbits, rodents). In areas with developed cattle breeding, in his menu can be found some sheep, goat or other domestic animals.
A wolf has offspring once a year. Wolves are mating in winter, and 63 days after successful mating a female in wolf's den gives birth to 4 to 7 blind and deaf little ones. Not all of them survive.
A wolf is a social animal. Wolves communicate howling, whining, growling, barking as well as with looks and movements. They mark the ground with smell and traces.
EUROASIAN LYNX (Lynx lynx)
ROW: BEASTS (carnivora)
FAMILY: cats (Felidae)
LENGTH adult individual: 80 - 130 cm
HEIGHT: up to 60 cm
BODY MASS: 16 - 30 kg
A lynx has a body covered with dense reddish-grey fur with a unique spot pattern. It is recognizable by the black hair follicles on top of the pointed ears and short tail covered on top with black hair. As every cat, a lynx has paws which can be retracted thus not able to see as a paw print. He walks on the tips of his toes. He has the same number of toes as a wolf. The body length varies from 80 to 130 cm, and the shoulder height is up to 60 cm. The body mass of lynx in Croatia is from 16 to 30 kg.
In order to inhabit an area, the most important thing for a lynx is that there is enough prey, especially roe deer and deer. He chooses peaceful areas as a shelter for daytime rest and especially for youth upbringing.
A WAY OF LIFE
Lynx lives mostly alone and is a territorial animal. The size of its territory depends on conditions in the habitat. Male territory is on average bigger than female territory. They are most active in the morning and evening, while generally resting during the day and night.
His main pray are wild animals like roe deer or rabbits, sometimes even a baby deer. A lynx eats its pray for a long time, often hids it and returns back repeatedly for several days until he eats it up.
Male and female stay together in the same place only during mating, from mid - February to end of March. After 73 days females give birth to one to four youngsters. Only females take care after their babies.
Since lynxes are mostly solitary and territorial animals as means of communication in defense of their territory they use secretion of scented glands, urine and scratching. Rarely they come into direct conflict with an "intruder".
The brown bear (Ursus arctos)
ROW: beasts (Carnivora)
FAMILY: bears (Ursidae)
LENGTH adult individual: around 2 metres
HEIGHT: 1 metre
BODY MASS: 100-300kg
Bear's strong body is covered with long brown hair, often chocolate colour. At the end of the body, footholded by four solid legs is a short tail only 8 cm long. Body length is about 2 m and shoulder height 1 m. Body mass of adult female is about 100 kg while males can weigh more than 300 kg. On front and back paws there are five strong toes. Unlike cats, bears can't pull in their paws. While walking bears touch the ground with soles – just like a man.
In this way they leave a trace not similar to any other species in our habitat.
Bear habitats are large, forestous, uninterrupted natural areas rich in diverse plant cover where he finds food, shelter, and a suitable area for a den.
A WAY OF LIFE
Most of his life a bear is alone. He moves around his living space of several dozen km² and up to several hundred km² depending on season and availability of food sources.
About 95% of nutritional needs bears find in plants (raspberries, acorns, wood betony), mushrooms, they occasionally have some meat meal. They often eat wasps and bees larvaes. Poorly digested vegetable food and seeds bears transport carrying droppings to great distances.
Bears mate from the end of May to the middle of July. During mating season, males and females are often mated with different individuals. After 7 months pregnancy 1 to 4 young babies are born in January or February, weight about 350 g. They are blind and without fur.
The bears communicate with each other through the scratches on the tree trunk and various fragrant signs, thus they mark their territory.
TIPS FOR STAYING IN NATURAL HABITAT OF WILD BEASTS
1. Do not throw away waste while walking in nature.
2. When taking a dog with you be responsible and keep it under constant supervision.
3. Do not approach wild animals trying to feed, touch, or taking photographs with them.
4. If you encounter youngling without a mother, do not try to help him. Get away! It is most likely the mother is near, and even if she's not there, he has bigger chances of surviving in the wild by himself. If the baby bear stays longer in the vicinity of humans, his mother will probably reject him.
5. Different species of birds, snakes, turtles, hedgehogs and other animals belong to nature. Do not take them as pets.
◗ In the Pleistocene Site of Medveđa Spilja (Bear Cave) on Lošinj island, fossil remains of brown bear were found along with remains of cave bear.
◗ Two constellations: Ursa Major (Great Bear) and Ursa Minor (Little Bear) are named after a bear.
◗ The Celtic Bear represents the goddess Artio. British King Arthur was named after her. There is a legend about King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table.
◗ Lynx is considered a symbol of Macedonia, and it has been on their 5 denara coin from 1993.
◗ In the 17th century Astronomer Hevelius named one constellation after Lynx
◗ In Europe, a lynx is a symbol of remarkable eyesight
◗ According Roman mythology founders of the Eternal City, Romulus and Remaus were fed by she-wolf
◗ A wolf is the first animal a man tamed about 100,000 years ago. Dogs evolved from wolves.
◗ In the Middle Ages people believed in werewolves. In the 15th century German king Sigismund called the congregation and made public the existence of werewolves.
◗ Still today, inhabitants of Rome belive a wolf drawn at the door brings happiness to the newlyweds
◗ A wolf is in the coat of arms of the town of Gospić.
◗ In the Scandinavian mythology while creating the world, God Odin created first two wolves to help him in a hunt so that they cuold teach people the skill.
◗ A wolf "Vučko" was a mascot of the Sarajevo Winter Olympics in 1984.
◗ Numerous European and Croatian city names and other geographic terms are derived from a number of particular wild beasts such as: Berlin, Bern, Vukovar, Risnjak, Medvednica.