Croatia is covered with pristine, untouched forests, grasslands, mountains, deserts, lakes and seas that are filled with a variety of wildlife. This gives anyone hiking or swimming around the country an opportunity to see some truly incredible animals and fish roaming free in their natural habitats.
If are lucky enough to spot a wild animal wandering around, it’s important not to bother them. Like the saying goes “take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints”. Many of Croatia’s wild animals are endangered, so it is imperative that we do all we can to protect them.
Under Croatian law, all animals are protected and large fines are imposed for causing any animal harm. Animals listed as endangered have an extra layer of protection from the government and therefore much larger fines imposed.
The most dangerous threats to wild animals are pollution, traffic, mass tourism, hunting, and fishing. By spreading awareness, we can all do our part to protect the creatures around us. Whether you live in Croatia or are just passing through as a tourist, it is up to all of us to protect habitats and the wildlife living in them.
In this post, we cover 20 endangered animals you might encounter and where you might see them in Croatia as well as the penalties for messing with these creatures.
Which animals are endangered in Croatia?
The list of all protected animal species in Croatia is quite long, so we picked some of the most vulnerable animals from the list to share with you. Most of these animals cannot be hunted as they are strictly protected wild animals, but some like the sea urchin require a license for fishing.
If you run into any of these animals, gaze but please do not touch.
#1 Hridinski ježinac (Sea urchin)
There are approximately 20 species of sea urchins in the Adriatic sea and hridinski ježinac (sea urchin; Paracentrotus lividus) is a big sea delicacy. To harvest hridinski ježinac or any other sea urchin, a license from the Ministarstvo zaštite okoliša i energetike (Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy) is needed.
Regardless, people hunt them and sell them on the black market, so their presence is endangered as a result. Igličasti ježinac (Centrostephanus longispinus) is the only sea urchin in Croatia that is a strictly protected species and mustn’t be hunted under any circumstances. The presence of sea urchins in the sea is a sign that the water is very clean and of a high-quality.
#2 Kuna zlatica (Marten)
Kuna zlatica (European pine marten; Martes martes) is a 55-centimeter long fast beast with very thick brown fur and a beautiful long tail. It has been hunted since ancient times due to its luxurious fur, but nowadays hunting the kuna is strictly forbidden! Kuna zlatica lives within conifer and deciduous Croatian forests on the island of Brač, and at Plitvice lakes National Park, Velebit Nature Park, and Papuk Nature Park.
Currently there are hunters on island Brač poisoning the kuna since they compete with the food supply of the wild boar. They do this so there will be more boar to hunt. Aside from this being 100% illegal, other animals including domestic pets are finding the poison as well, causing an excruciating death within minutes. If your animal was poisoned, you must report it to the police. The new chief of police on Brač said he will tackle this issue but he needs people to report poisonings so he can respond. Poisoning any animal, not just the ones on this list, is a crime.
#3 Plemenita periska (Noble pen shell)
Plemenita periska (noble pen shell; Pinna nobilis) is the biggest shell in the Adriatic and Mediterranean Sea. It lives at depths from 2 to 30 meters on the sandy and muddy sea bottoms. While it can be found throughout the Adriatic, they are concentrated around Mljet National Park and Telašćica Nature Park.
Plemenita periska is often a house for small crabs who act as security guards who warn about the potential danger that is approaching. Periska then closes up its shell that can be up to 1 meter long. Sometimes pearls of no commercial value may be found in its shells.
#4 Prstac (Date mussel)
Prstac (date shell; date mussel; Litophaga litophaga) is a shell of an average length about 9 centimeters that can grow up to 15 centimeters. It lives in cliffs, larger rocks, and underwater caves in its own wells. Prstac is considered to be a delicacy, but has been strictly protected since 1995.
They were hunted the most on the west coast of Istria, around Split, Šibenik, Ston, and Croatian islands. They can also be found at Brijuni National Park. Its approximate weight is 20 grams, but it can weigh up to 100 grams.
#5 Sredozemna medvjedica (Mediterranean monk seal)
Sredozemna medvjedica (mediterranean monk seal; Monachus monachus) is one of the most endangered mammals in the world. It is estimated that the total number of living sredozemna medvjedica is less than 600. The Mediterranean monk seal can reach a length of up to 2,4 meters and a weight of 320 kilograms. It has a very poor sight as it is nocturnal, but good hearing and smell.
During past 10 years, the monk seal was seen all across the Adriatic sea, but only one was photographed. They tend to congregate near the east and west coasts of Istria, and along the west coast of the islands of Cres and Lošinj.
#6 Kitovi (Whales)
Kitovi (whales, cetus) that live in the Adriatic sea are strictly protected. There are 9 whale species that live or occasionally visit the Adriatic sea including:
- Sjeverni kit (Balaenoptera physalus)
- Obični dupin (Delphinus delphis)
- Bjelogrli dupin (Globicephala melas)
- Glavati dupin (Grampus griseus)
- Ulješura (Physeter macrocephalus)
- Crni dupin (Pseudorca crassidens)
- Plavobijeli dupin (Stenella coeruleoalba)
- Dobri dupin (Tursiops truncatus)
- Krupnozubi dupin (Ziphius cavirostris)
#7 Smeđi medvjed (Brown bear)
Smeđi medvjed (brown bear; Ursus arctos) is the biggest land beast in Croatia. Croatian females weigh approximately 120 kilograms and males approximately 210 kilograms. Some of them can weigh more than 300 kilograms. The brown bear is considered a loner. No matter how clumsy it looks, the brown bear can run up to 50 kilometers per hour.
#8 Macaklin (Lizard)
Macaklin is a type of lizard. There are two types of macaklin in Croatia: kućni macaklin (Hemidactylus turcicus) and zidni macaklin (Tarentola mauritanica). Kućni macaklin is 8-10 centimeters long, and zidni macaklin is 10-19 centimeters long. They are harmless and useful animals as they eat mosquitoes, spiders, and other insects.
Kućni macaklin lives all across the Adriatic coast and islands like Kornati National Park, while the zidni macaklin mostly lives around Zadar and on islands like Hvar, Lošinj, and Mljet National Park.
#9 Dabar (Beaver)
Dabar (beaver, Castor fiber) is the biggest living rodent in Croatia. It can reach up to 1 meter of length and 20-30 kilograms of weight. Dabar lives on water surfaces that are overgrown with rich marsh vegetation like Lonjsko polje Nature Park and Kopački rit Nature Park. Some rivers and water surfaces even have too many of them, but they are strictly protected species regardless.
#10 Euroazijski ris (Lynx)
Euroazijski ris (lynx, Lynx lynx) is the most rarely spotted protected animal in Croatia. It lives in the dense mountain forests of Gorski kotar (Risnjak National Park), Velebit (Northern Velebit National Park), and Lika (Paklenica National Park).
This cat is very elegant and beautiful, and weighs about 20 kilograms. It is a very quiet animal but when it comes to mating, lynxes call each other by meowing.
#11 Vuk (Wolf)
Vuk (wolf; Canis lupus) is the biggest wild representative of the dog family. It is estimated that there are 100-150 wolves in Croatia. They live in Gorski kotar (Risnjak National Park), Velebit (Northern Velebit National Park), Lika (Paklenica National Park), and Dalmatia in packs of 10 to 15.
Wolves are carnivores and they eat deer, roe deer, chamois, and small mammals like rabbits and mice.
#12 Mala ušara (Long-eared owl)
Mala ušara (long-eared owl; Asio otus) lives on the edges of forests and in city parks. Owls gather in groups on trees during winter. They are pretty quiet birds, but their cubs can be heard squeaking during long summer nights.
Owls usually settle in the abandoned nests of other birds. In Croatia, mala ušara lives at Lonjsko polje Nature Park, Žumberak Nature Park, Vransko jezero Nature Park, in Međimurje, etc.
#13 Šišmiš (Bat)
Half of šišmiš species (bat; Chiroptera) in Croatia are protected. Bats are the most numerous group of mammals in Croatia (other than humans) and they are the only mammals that actively fly. They usually live in caves at Krka National Park, Paklenica National Park, Plitvice lakes National Park, Mljet National Park, Telašćica Nature Park, and Medvednica Nature Park, but can also be found within church towers and under roof overhangs.
They are night animals and are well-known for sleeping upside down. Bats can live up to 30 years and a female bat usually gives birth to only one cub per year.
The strictly protected bats species in Croatia are:
- Sredozemni slobodnorepac (Tadarida teniotis)
- Blazijev potkovnjak (Rhinolophus blasii)
- Južni potkovnjak (Rhinolophus euryale)
- Veliki potkovnjak (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum)
- Mali potkovnjak (Rhinolophus hipposideros)
- Meheljev potkovnjak (Rhinolophus mehelyi)
- Širokouhi mračnjak (Barbastella barbastellus)
- Sjeverni noćnjak (Eptesicus nilssonii)
- Kasni noćnjak (Eptesicus serotinus)
- Primorski šišmiš (Hypsugo savii)
- Dugokrili pršnjak (Miniopterus schreibersii)
- Mali brkati šišmiš (Myotis alcathoe)
- Primorski brkati šišmiš (Myotis aurascens)
- Velikouhi šišmiš (Myotis bechsteinii)
- Oštrouhi šišmiš (Myotis blythii)
- Brandtov šišmiš (Myotis brandtii)
- Dugonogi šišmiš (Myotis capaccinii)
- Močvarni šišmiš (Myotis dasycneme)
- Riječni šišmiš (Myotis daubentonii)
- Riđi šišmiš (Myotis emarginatus)
- Veliki šišmiš (Myotis myotis)
- Brkati šišmš (Myotis mystacinus)
- Resati šišmiš (Myotis nattereri)
- Veliki večernjak (Nyctalus lasiopterus)
- Mali večernjak (Nyctalus leisleri)
- Rani večernjak (Nyctalus noctula)
- Bjelorubi šišmiš (Pipistrellus kuhlii)
- Mali šumski šišmiš (Pipistrellus nathusii)
- Patuljasti šišmiš (Pipistrellus pipistrellus)
- Patuljasti močvarni šišmiš (Pipistrellus pygmaeus)
- Sivi dugoušan (Plecotus austriacus)
- Smeđi dugoušan (Plecotus auritus)
- Kolombatovićev dugoušan (Plecotus kolombatovici)
- Gorski dugoušan (Plecotus macrobullaris)
- Dvobojni šišmiš (Vespertilio murinus)
#14 Mekousna pastrva (Trout)
Mekousna pastrva (Salmothymus obtusirostris salonitana) is an endemic Croatian trout species. It weighs approximately 2 kilograms, but it can reach a maximum weight of 4 kilograms. Mekousna pastrva lives in rivers Jadro and Žrnovica near Split. The total number of this endemic species is unknown, but its population is constantly maintained.
#15 Kopnena kornjača (Hermann’s tortoise)
Kopnena kornjača (Hermann’s tortoise; Estudo hermanni) mostly lives in Dalmatia at Mljet National Park, Krka National Park, Biokovo Nature Park, and Lastovo Archipelago Nature Park but it also been seen in Vransko jezero Nature Park. It can grow up to 30 centimeters in length.
This tortoise grows very slowly, over 80 to 100 years. Kopnena kornjača is primarily a herbivore, but sometimes it eats snails and worms. If there is no food, it can survive without it for weeks. Tortoises are the oldest living reptiles.
#16 Lombardijska smeđa žaba (Italian agile frog)
Lombardijska smeđa žaba (Italian agile frog; Rana latastei) lives in the moist deciduous forests of middle and northern Istria, mostly around Motovun. It is one of the most endangered amphibians in Croatia and in Europe.
It is a small to medium-sized frog that can jump more than 100 centimeters into the distance. To put this into the perspective, that would be equal to a human jumping 15 to 20 meters. It lives up to 4 years.
#17 Močvarni plavac (Butterfly)
Močvarni plavac (Phengaris alcon alcon) is a protected butterfly that lives in moist meadows. It can be seen during July and August when it lays eggs on host plants. In Croatia, this species was recorded for the first time in Plitvice Lakes National Park in 2004. It can also be found in the Papuk Nature Park.
#18 Čovječja ribica (Olm)
Čovječja ribica (olm, Proteus anguinus) is the most popular endemic cave animal in Croatia. Its skin is human-like and long body reminiscent of a snake. It is a very rare amphibian that lives in the karst underground of Istria, Lika, and rivers of Krka, Cetina, Vrljika, Matica, Norin, and Neretva. Čovječja ribica is 25 centimeters long and can live up to 60 years.
#19 Poskok (Horned viper)
Poskok (Horned viper; Vipera ammodytes) is the most poisonous and dangerous European snake. An adult poskok is between 50 and 90 centimeters long. It is recognizable by its short horn at the top of the nose. Poskok isn’t afraid of people, but if it feels endangered it may attack and bite. It lives up to 15 years. Always be aware of poskok while going hiking.
If you notice one, do not approach it. It can be found almost everywhere in Croatia: in Istria, at Croatian islands (Krk, Pag, Pašman, Brač, Mljet National Park, etc.), and mountainous regions (Kalnik, Žumberak Nature Park, Medvednica Nature Park, Banovina, Kordun, Biokovo Nature Park, etc.).
#20 Bjeloglavi sup (Griffon vulture)
Bjeloglavi sup (Griffon vulture; Gyps fulvus) is a bird of prey from the hawk family. It is recognizable for its small head that stays down in flight, large wings with a span up to 2,8 meters, and short tail. Bjeloglavi sup never attacks live animals and usually eats large dead mammals.
In Croatia, its most famous habitat is the island of Cres where Centar za posjetitelje i oporavilište za bjeloglave supove Beli (Beli Visitor Centre and Rescue Centre for Griffon Vultures) is situated. Some of them also live on the islands of Krk, Prvić, Plavnik, and Rab.
Protection of endangered animals in Croatia
Endangered animals in Croatia are the ones identified as at risk of extinction. For an animal to be listed as endangered, first HAOP (Croatian agency for the environment and nature) proposes which species should be strictly protected (above and beyond the existing animal protection law).
Then Ministarstvo zaštite okoliša i energetike (Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy) decides whether they will be strictly protected or not and what the rules will be regarding their protection.
You absolutely cannot take any of the below actions on protected animals:
- Catch or kill them on purpose
- Harass them, especially at the time of reproduction, rearing, hibernation, and migration
- Destroy or take their eggs
- Destroy, damage, or remove them, their nests, or their litters
- Destroy or damage their breeding and resting areas
Penalties for the above violations range between 7.000 kuna and 200.000 kuna, depending on the severity.
If you’ve found a dead, exhausted, wounded, injured, sick or poisoned protected animal species, you must report it to the HAOP via HAOP’w web form within a period of 24 hours.