Gorski kotar

Gorski Kotar

The mountainous areas of Croatia, thanks to the favourable habitat conditions, has been and remains the core area where wolves have succeeded in surviving and, with improved conditions, expanding into neighbouring areas. Wolves in Gorski Kotar are significantly active both by day and night, as the forest cover provides sufficient protection. Wolves in Dalmatia, on the other hand, are most active by night. From 2002 to 2004, six wolves from two neighbouring packs were captured and fitted with radio-collars. Ines, Hilda and Felix are members of the Snježnik pack, Tanja and Blaža belong to the Risnjak pack, while the female Mila is not a pack member and is instead a wolf in dispersion.


In summer 2005, two new wolves were collared, both from the Snježnik pack, female W12-Sara and female pup W13-Kyra. Until summer 2005, the Snježnik pack was monitored only via the female Hilda, and after the collaring of two new wolves, Sara and Kyra, this monitoring was expanded. During summer and autumn of 2006, three wolves were captured in the Gorski Kotar area. Sara, whose collar stopped working after only a year, was re-captured and collared. After Sara, the young male wolf Noah and his brother Grga, members of the Suho pack, were captured and collared.

2006 and 2007

At the end of 2006, two wolves of the Snježnik pack (Hilda and Sara) were monitored, as were two wolves from the Suho pack (Noah and Grga). At that time, there were no collared wolves in the Risnjak pack. Considering that the collars ceased operating too soon, the capture and collaring of wolves in Gorski Kotar was continued during the summer of 2007, when the first traps were set. The first wolves captured in September was a large male, named W18-Max. Considering that he was caught in the midst of Hilda's pack, he was believed to belong to the Snježnik pack. However, Max made long excursions into various areas that belonged to different packs, even deep into Slovenia. The second wolf captured in October was a young female named W19-Rina, who at the start of monitoring kept within the territory of the Risnjak pack.
As such, by the end of 2007, telemetric monitoring was conducted on three wolves from three different packs (Risnjak pack - Rina, Snježnik pack - Hilda, Suho pack - Max). Extensive monitoring soon proved that the locations of wolf Max did not fully represent the movements of the Suho pack, and therefore it was necessary to collar another wolf from that pack. In the Snježnik pack, the only collared wolf (Hilda) had only a VHF collar that had been operational since 2002.


Wolf capture activities again began in the early summer of 2008, with efforts directed at the Snježnik and Suho packs. During new research, numerous signs of wolf presence in the Gorski Kotar were recorded. At the end of September, the female W20-Tvigi, aged about 6 months, was collared in the territory of the Suho pack. Howling simulations confirmed that Tvigi was a member of the Suho pack. Though only one wolf (Tvigi) was captured during the 2008 season, a total of eight wolves were marked, though seven of these only with microchips. In May 2008, Vedran Slijepčević found a litter of seven pups of the Risnjak pack. The pups were examined and measured, and a microchip was injected under the skin of each. The litter consisted of six males and one female. Subsequent howling confirmed that the pups were alive. During 2008, four different wolves from three packs were monitored, and this continued until mid January 2009 (Hilda - Snježnik, Rina - Risnjak, Tvigi - Suho, Max - variable).


In 2009, Assistant Professor Dr. Josip Kusak from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine continued collaring wolves in Gorski Kotar, with three wolves captured and collared. On 21 May 2009, a male about 3 years old was captured and collared and named W21-Luka, and two days after being collared, he joined the Snježnik pack. Only days later, 3 kilometres further from the site where Luka was collared, the wolf W22-Drago, also a member of the Snježnik pack, was captured and collared. Both wolves are likely the offspring of the female Hilda, marked in 2002 with a still functioning VHF collar. The third collared wolf, a female named W23-Taša, a member of the Suho pack, was collared in August 2009. Therefore, by the end of 2009, a total of 16 wolves were collared and telemetrically monitored in the Gorski Kotar region (Ines, Hilda, Blaža, Felix, Mila, Tanja, Sara, Kyra, Noah, Grga, Max, Rina, Tvigi, Luka, Drago and Taša). Monitoring snow tracks and DNA analyses of wolf droppings established that there were between 2–6 packs in the researched part of Gorski Kotar. This means that in three packs, the number of individuals varied from 10 to a maximum of 15 wolves. The number of wolves is constantly changing. Young wolves are born in spring, some perish as pups, while other survive to an age when they can leave the parental pack. The majority perish at this time. Some succeed in surviving to achieve sexual maturity, though few receive the opportunity for reproduction.
Mortality of wolves in Gorski Kotar is primarily from natural causes and from man. The female Ines perished when she left her pack and entered into the territory of the Snježnik pack. These wolves found, killed and ate her. In natural conditions, without human influence, this is the most natural end to a wolf's life. Juvenile wolf Felix died of disease, while the female Blaža was shot.


During the research conducted in 2010, an area of 859.4 km² in the Gorski Kotar region was searched for signs of wolf presence. The research resulted in the collaring of two wolves: female W25-Nika (2.5 years old, 31 kg) captured in the territory of the Suho pack on 21 August 2010 and fitted with a GPS-UHF collar, and male W26-Karlo (3.5 years, 36 kg) from the Snježnik pack, captured and collared on 1 September 2010. In the territory of the Suho pack, a wolf pup was captured, measured and released on 16 July 2012, named WP08 (wolf pup 08). The pup was captured at an age of only three months and weighed only 9 kg, and therefore could not be collared. In the area of the Snježnik pack, on 18 July 2012, a female was captured and collared. She was named W28-Tona, and was 3.3 years old and weighed 29 kg, and she was fitted with a GPS-UHF collar. She was monitored for two weeks before her signal was lost. Slovenian researchers were contacted, however, they also were not able to find her signal. On 24 August 2012, in the territory of the Suho pack, a female named W29-Ajša, aged 5 months and weighing 14 kg, was captured and fitted with a BHF collar. The capture of the male pup WP08 and female W29-Ajše confirmed that there was a litter of pups in the Suho pack in 2012. For packs and their members, who territories lie within Gorski Kotar, it is very important to mention the significant influence of neighbouring Slovenia. Namely, Taša, a female of the Suho pack, disappeared only 7 days after moving from Croatia into Slovenia. Another even greater loss was recorded on 25 February when two males from the Snježnik pack, Luka and Drago, were killed as part of legal culling just one week after entering Slovenian territory. These events, and prior wolf losses in Slovenia, suggest the possibility that the survival of the Slovene wolf population may be dependent on immigration of wolves from Croatia, and that mortality in Slovenia is higher that the population's natural regeneration.