Croatia wildlife: a guide

Croatia wildlife is among the most diverse in Europe, so it’s an absolute must-visit for nature enthusiasts. Here are six animals that call this beautiful country home.

By Saga team

Published 4 May 2024

Head inland, away from the sun-blessed shores of the popular Dalmatian Coast, and you’ll discover a whole different world. Croatia is home to some of the most diverse wildlife in Europe, although it’s often overlooked in favour of images of forested isles, azure waves, Venetian-style towns and historic walled cities. Here’s just a taster of Croatia wildlife and where you can find it.

With over 1,000 Eurasian brown bears roaming free in Croatia, the country has one of the higher populations of the animal in Europe – pretty impressive considering the species is almost extinct on the western continent. Unfortunately, these fuzzy, ferocious animals are frequently hunted for sport, although the practice is closely monitored and it’s only legal at certain times of the year.

These incredible mammals reside in protected areas such as Croatia’s oldest national park, the UNESCO-listed Plitvice Lakes, and Velebit Nature Park in the Velebit mountain range.

For a safe and guaranteed way to spot the brown bear, put the Kuterevo Bear Refuge, in Lika-Senj County, on your list. It was founded back in 2002 as a sanctuary for orphaned bears and is run entirely by volunteers. Visit a couple of hours before sunset to see the residents at their most active.

Did you know? An image of the brown bear was featured on the reverse side of Croatia's five kuna coin, before the currency was replaced by the euro.

Croatia’s mountains and dense forests provide the perfect habitat for wolves to thrive. They were exterminated from most parts of Europe in the 19th century, although conservation efforts have helped the species to recover, and now Croatia and the Balkans boast some of the biggest populations.

Croatia’s wolves are spread across the counties of Sisak-Moslavina, Karlovac, Lika-Senj, Primorje-Gorski kotar, Istria, Zadar, Šibenik-Knin, Dubrovnik-Neretva and Split-Dalmatia. They shy away from humans, so you’d be hard-pressed to spot one while on holiday here.

Did you know? Usually, when a wolf finds a mate, they stay together for life.

Croatia’s big, beautiful cat, the Eurasian lynx, is the largest species of lynx in the world. And, much like the wolf, it was once common throughout Europe. After the species was reintroduced to Slovenia, it began to colonise parts of Croatia. A number of mating pairs set up home in Plitvice Lakes National Park, and, with such dreamy views, who could blame them?!

Sadly, these animals in Croatia are dwindling – there are thought to be only around 40 to 60 lynxes left in the country. Risnjak National Park in Gorski kotar is where most call home – this spectacular park was actually named after the animal (lynx in Croatian is “ris”).

Did you know? A lynx can spot a mouse from 250 feet away.

This fluffy wader stalks Croatia’s wetlands in search of prey and can often be found frequenting the waters of the River Norin, which it shares with a glorious variety of fish and birdlife.

Despite its speckled feathers, the bittern has a number of unfortunate nicknames, including bog-trotter and mire-drum.

Did you know? The great bittern’s mating call, known as booming, can be heard up to three miles away.

There are 1,144 islands dotting Croatia’s beautiful coast and the channels and lagoons between them are ideal dolphin-spotting territory.

Several species can be found in the Adriatic, with the bottlenose dolphin the most consistent sighting. However, if you head out on a dolphin-watching tour during yourtrip to Croatia, you might be lucky enough to spot striped dolphin and common dolphin – the Adriatic is too shallow and warm for whales to call it home, but fin whale and sperm whales do occasionally pass through.

Did you know? Dolphins can be seen all year round, regardless of the time of year you visit Croatia.

Otherwise known as the cave salamander, this newt-like creature is Europe’s only cave-dwelling vertebrate. In place of eyelids, olms have a layer of skin covering their eyes, rendering them blind with a slight sensitivity to light. Instead, the olm has a fantastic hearing that allows them to sense vibrations in the water and locate prey.

Croatia is one of the only countries in the world where it can be found. It makes its home in the underground lakes and rivers of the country’s honeycomb limestone caves and can be found in Krka National Park.

Did you know? Given the scarcity of food in its chosen habitat, olms have adapted to be able to survive up to ten years without food.

Want to go on your very own Croatia wildlife discovery? Take a look at our hotel and touring holidays to Croatia.

Recent articles