Slovenian brown bears are among the most popular but also the most common animals in Slovenia. If you’re visiting Ljubljana and want to go on a wild chase to find these rare animals, you’re in the right place. Slovenia loves its bears, and they are now thriving in a brand new ecosystem that cares for them.
Slovenian brown bears are among the most common brown bear species available in several regions of Europe, especially Slovenia. After virtual extermination, they are now slowly thriving in Slovenian forests and woodlands. They are a sight to behold to tourists and locals alike.
Are you looking to meet these beautiful brown bears? There are a few ways to get through that. Here’s everything you need to know to meet brown bears in Slovenia.
Learning More About The Brown Bear
Before we learn where to find brown bears, we need crucial information first. This will help us appreciate them better and understand how they behave.
Slovenian brown bears or Ursus arctos arctos are known as the Eurasian brown bear. It’s known for its other names, including the European brown bear and the common bear.
If you have read fairy tale stories during your childhood, they are precisely how you’d imagine a bear is. They have dense brown fur, big bodies, and can weigh almost half a ton.
They live between 20 to 30 years and have existed throughout the entire middle history of Europe. The bears live in more forested regions of Slovenia and are known to be quite a rare sight. Even then, Slovenian green initiatives have improved bear populations over the past few years.
Slovenian brown bears are omnivorous creatures, much like how we know them. They eat any meat that is available in their environment, together with vegetables. Bears like to eat stray deer or sheep and tend to fish when they can.
Where Do Brown Bears Live?
So, where do bears live? Most brown bears live in Europe, Central Asia, and the Americas. In Europe, You can view bears from a certain distance in many conservation hotspots and national parks.
Bear watching has become a pastime in lots of European countries. These include countries such as Romania, Spain, Slovenia, Greece, Finland, and even Norway.
If you’re in the United States, bears are quite common in Alaska, Northwest Montana, Washington, and other northern regions. Grizzlies are also in Yellowstone National Park and Canada. As we know, people can observe white polar bears in many Arctic regions, but they are slowly losing their habitat.
Humans have encroached much of their habitats over the years, which forced them deeper into forests. In Slovenia, they faced endangered status right after World War II. Many brown bears faced hunters almost daily, and it led to dwindling numbers in the mid-20th century.
According to several reports, they detail that Slovenian brown bear number from anywhere between 400 bears up to 1,000 bears. Their new numbers are great, especially for bear watchers.
If you want to meet a bear, you need to find where they live and get there. Here’s how you can find them.
Understanding Bear Habitats
If you go to Europe, the best bear habitats are vast forests. Bears love to live in terrain where they feel they can protect themselves and their cubs. They like finding ways to utilize natural abodes for themselves.
Among the many locations, they like steep-sloped, a rocky territory where there is very little human activity. Contrary to popular belief, bears don’t like encounters with humans. They want places where humans hardly ever step in as it prevents unlikely confrontations.
The densest populations of bears in Europe are available around the Dinaric Mountains and the Carpathians. A combination of mountains, alpine hills, and forests are perfect for them.
Some bear families and even sleuths live around the Pyrenees and the Apennines. Bears are solitary in nature, apart from a mother and mate, together with their cubs.
Finding Brown Bears In Slovenia
Bears in the general territory of Slovenia have continuously grown over the past few decades. If you decide to do some bear watching with professionals, you will find some for sure. There are specific regions in Slovenia that you need to look out for.
Years of studies show that the bear population is the densest due south of Slovenia. In a 2013 study, the density stays around the country’s central-south ridge and stays that way.
“Local bear population densities vary considerably between different parts of the country,” noted the study. “Areas of the higher bear population densities are in the south-central part of the country, with highest values at high-karst plateaus in Dinaric Mountain Range. Bear population densities decrease towards the north (Alpine region) and are very low along the border with Italy and Austria.”
Why Visit Bears In Slovenia
Why are there so many bears in Slovenia? While the country does not have the biggest brown bear population yet, they are among the fastest-growing population in Europe.
The number of bears in Slovenia has more than doubled over the past decade. This development is all thanks to the country’s green movement and conservation efforts.
Slovenia is a popular nature destination, famous for its forests. Almost one-third of the country has woods and forests, with pockets of population. Consequently, the country has a high density of wild animals, including bears and wolves.
If you happen to visit Slovenia, it’s a boon to tourists. You will get a chance to enjoy all the modernities of life in the cities. Places like Kranj and Ljubljana are time capsules that signify the long history of the country.
You can also get the opportunity to enjoy nature. The beautiful combo of nature, landscape, and wildlife, like Slovenian brown bears, is unique to the country. This can be one of the most wonderful journeys for you if you love animals.
Bear Watching in Slovenia
Bear watching in Slovenia is a chance to learn about the bear. It’s your chance to learn about their natural habitat and their life in the untouched Slovenian forests, far away from tourist sites.
When you’re bear watching, you will go to different regions of Slovenia. Depending on where you stay, you can visit various other locations and even regional parks.
There’s a good-sized bear population in the forests of Notranjska Regional Park. You will also find them in the region around it, including Snežnik, Kozarišče, and Rakitna region.
You will find experienced guides to help you observe them and see how they behave in their natural habitat, usually from April to September. If you’re lucky, a warmer fall season will last well into October. If you’re unfortunate, a long winter doesn’t end until May – it all depends on weather conditions.
As we know, bears hibernate in the winter. A longer winter means that bears will stay in hiding for a much longer time. A longer summer will keep them more active on the flipside, even much further until later in the year.
What Other Animals Will You Encounter In Slovenia?
When looking for bears, you won’t only encounter bears as you go forward. You’d have to keep an eye out for wild animals like lynx or wolves, which reside in the local forests.
The vast forests of Kočevsko offer a vast land that acts as a habitat to many faunas, both large and small. Many of these beautiful creatures are animals you’ll rarely meet elsewhere. If you’re visiting the forests with experienced guides, expect to meet some of them.
You can meet these fantastical animals up close or from a distance, depending on the type of tour you have. Among the most powerful and most famous residents within the Kočevsko forest’s denizens is the brown bear.
Many of these gorgeous beings live in the same ecosystem as bears. Even then, many of these species are extremely elusive too, which means it will be a lucky coincidence when you see them. So, which animals can you expect to see when you’re bear watching?
If you’re Slovenian, wolves are a crucial element of your natural heritage. If you’re a tourist, it will likely be exciting to see these majestic creatures in their primal form.
The Slovenian wolf population is among the few rare indigenous populations still intact in the European continent. The wolf is the largest type of dog and is the ancestral form of dogs before they were domesticated.
Slovenian wolves are similar to what you would expect in literature. They come in packs led by a wolf and a she-wolf. Other members of the pack are their descendants or relatives, usually their cubs.
The lynx is among the rarest and hardest to find animals in Europe. It is beautiful, and it has almost disappeared from Slovenia in the past. Over the years, this cute member of the cat family resettled in the forests of Kočevsko around 40 years ago.
The lynx is a part of the family of cats, usually small to medium-sized. Like many of its relatives, it’s a great ambush predator against small animals and rodents. It is cautious, but lucky visitors and tourists will likely see it, especially during the winter.
Slovenian Red Fox
Foxes are some of the best-represented animals in Slovenia, being among the most often seen in the woods of Kočevsko. It will be hard to see them during the day, mostly keeping to their habitats. They are nocturnal in nature, so a random encounter will be something that will surely be precious.
A fox sighting will bring you great joy for sure. They are cute, red, and has charming snarls and purrs. Foxes are some of the cutest omnivores out there, so you will likely find them during a hunt. They eat everything from mushrooms to pheasants and more.
Animals of The Sky
In the Kočevsko forest, bear watching doesn’t stop with the bears. While Slovenian bears are your primary target, you shouldn’t limit it to them. Everything is buzzing with life, and you’ll find more than simple land animals with Slovenian bears.
To see many of the other astounding inhabitants with the Slovenian brown bear, you have to look up. Look into the air and peer between the tree trunks and the branches.
Chief among them, the white-tailed eagle is among Slovenia’s largest raptors, which has a wingspan of over more than 6.5 feet (~2m). When you see this fantastic bird in flight, expect to see its majestic glides, which will take your breath away.
Unfortunately, the white-tailed eagle is quite rare, so you’re lucky if you see one around. Slovenian conservation efforts are looking to increase their numbers some more.
During fairer weather, you will also see some staple birds in the locale. During the summer you’ll likely find a Ural owl and a Northern goshawk sitting on the branches. These creatures are numerous and will probably be a crucial part of your visit.
Animals Near Slovenian Waters
The waters in Slovenia and its woodlands like Kočevsko are immaculate too. Through the people and the government’s green efforts, rivers and streams are also in pristine condition. These, therefore, offer superior living conditions to water animals in Slovenia.
Apart from the Slovenian bear, Over 70 species of birds live along Lake Kočevje. Many of the reeds offer a home to dragonflies and colorful butterflies, together with other beautiful insects.
The Cold and clean water of the rivers and lakes harbor many fish species too. The waters of Kočevsko is suitable for fish and crabs, together with many other aquatic species in Slovenia. If you have time during your bear watching, it’s a great side adventure to do.
How Do Bear Watching Adventures Work?
Now that you know what animals to expect during bear watching, you need to know how the adventures work. Many bear watching adventures have specific rules to follow to prevent wild animal attacks.
Every bear watching experience varies per tour, but they follow general rules and regulations. Here’s how they typically go.
Respecting The Bear Watching Experience
The Slovenian Brown bear is the largest known carnivore in Europe. The entire experience is there to appreciate them better and understand their plight. The experience is personal, and it can be spiritual too, depending on how much you love animals.
Meeting an animal in its natural habitat can be unforgettable, and it’s something you will never forget. It helps build a more special feeling of appreciation for the animal, its ecosystem, and nature itself. It helps develop a positive attitude towards the animal and everything around it.
The unique opportunity to meet and observe the bear is above and beyond anything you will ever feel. It’s crucial to understand, however, that bear watching trips may not guarantee a bear shows up.
There is a good chance that a bear will stay in hiding, for a number of reasons. It can be sleeping or hunting or even hibernating. When such an event happens, many tours offer partial refunds.
The Bear Watching Experience Itself
The experience will begin at an agreed-upon starting point. Some guides will meet you at your hotel, while others will meet you at a locale convenient to you. From there, they will bring you to several locations they know.
An experienced local bear guide will start your adventure by taking you to observatories. Depending on the tour, they can bring you to one of many local observatories in the woods. He will lead you into every step of your fantastic journey.
While there’s always a possibility you don’t see Slovenian bears, they are almost always visible in the south of Slovenia. They are the real kings of Slovenian forests, and you will see them hunting consistently.
To look for food, a bear needs much space to operate. They will walk through unspoiled forests, drink fresh water from clean streams, and enforce their predator status. They also eat forest fruits, mushrooms, insects, rodents, and carcasses as needed.
With that said, it’s vital to stay out of their way. While seeing a brown bear is enjoyable, the last thing you want is to be up close and personal. Zoo bears behave properly because they usually have the right training; wild brown bears are different.
Brown bears are curious by nature and territorial too. The idea of intrusion in their territory can force them to act, something nobody wants to happen.
What You Should Expect
In many tours, bear watching sessions usually start in the afternoon, at varying schedules. During the summer, from June to early September, observation times start later in the day. There is more sunlight around this time, so bears go out later.
During late spring to early autumn, which is May, September, and October, bear watching times can start earlier. Bears are likely to wake up earlier for a hunt.
The observation starts from the meeting point to a village near the bear habitat. Some of these villages include Cajnarje, due south of Ljubljana. From here, you will get some information about the tour.
Experienced guides will take you to the observatory or spots where guides know you can stay safe. Many observatories stand on top of the hill, where there are huge spaces and enough sun for the entire observation period.
After a while, The guide will leave you alone in the observatory so you can enjoy the event in peace. They will then come back later in the evening, depending on the weather conditions.
Some tours will offer you transfers, guidance, and even a welcome drink. Dinner will be prepared, especially since the bear watching event lasts into the night. Expect some local fare prepared in the village, usually traditional Slovenian food.
Rules of Slovenian Bear Watching Adventures
Bear watching, much like hunting and hiking, has crucial rules you must remember. The entire point of watching bears and other animals with it is to instill better conservation efforts within everyone. With that said, guests and visitors are expected proper decorum.
Here are a few vital things you should remember.
Avoiding A Bear Encounter and Keeping Safe
The Slovenian bear, much like many of its kind, is a cautious animal. It perceives almost any animal as a danger to it. By extension, as a rule, it perceives a person as a danger too.
They will endeavor to avoid humans as much as possible, possible due to their well-developed senses. Bears will only attack when surprised or provoked by the approach of a person. They only do attack as a defense mechanism.
There are situations where bears will choose to attack intruders. The most common situations that will force a bear attack include:
- an unleashed dog provoking a bear, and then running towards its owner for protection,
- Moving towards an injured bear or one that has injured members of its group
- surprising a female bear with cubs nearby,
- surprising a bear at a distance too close that it has nowhere to run and leave the area immediately,
- a bear when it is hungry, hunting, and/or feeding
- coming into close contact with a habituated bear who is not afraid of humans
If you want to avoid a bear encounter, always listen to your guide. At the same time, there are a few rules that will ensure your safety during an observation. These include:
- If your tour includes moving towards bear habitat, never move in silence. Your presence in bear habitat should not be silent enough to surprise a bear. You want to make yourself noticeable, especially when moving through dense vegetation and more rugged terrain.
- If you have a dog, keep your dog on a leash. Never unleash your dog; otherwise, it will likely hunt for the bear and lead it to you.
- If you see a bear, stay at a distance. Never try to approach or disturb it. Never feed a bear.
Bears will leave as soon as they detect someone in their area. Even then, if you encounter a bear, stay calm, and assess the situation. Here’s how you should react:
- When you spot a bear from a close distance, retreat slowly, returning from the way you arrived. Give the bear ample amount of space to continue its route. Don’t run!
- If a bear is coming towards you and it didn’t detect you, make yourself noticeable. Speak low and calm, then start retreating. Slovenian brown bears have poor eyesight, so it should see you as a human.
- If you encounter a bear up close: stop, stay calm, and slowly move backward. Don’t make any sudden movements and don’t scream.
- Do not throw rocks or any objects.
- In some cases, a bear may try to do a bluff charge to scare away unwanted visitors. When this happens, don’t move and stand still. You can also slowly lay on the ground face down, trying to remain as unmoving as possible and never fight back.
- Remember: never run away from a bear. Don’t climb a tree either. Bears are masterful climbers and can sprint up to 31 mph (50 km/h).
Bears are majestic creatures, but they are wild animals too. They deserve the utmost respect that we can give them, especially in their habitat.
Green Guidelines To Follow
Much like any nature trip, there are also rules that you need to remember when moving to Slovenia’s woodlands. It’s crucial to preserve nature for future generations, even at the cost of minor inconveniences.
First, make sure to leave no trace behind. Take all your trash and waste with you, especially human food, receptacles, and plastics. Place it in assigned waste bins and never leave it in the wild.
If you have to, make bonfires only on suitably prepared fireplaces. Make sure to have the first be completely extinguished before you leave. Snuff the embers with water or sand or dirt before departure.
Be respectful of private properties, nature, markings, and other trail markers. Entering hunting observatories is prohibited unless you have proper permits or an experienced guide.
If your bear watching tour includes moving through the forest, make sure to stay in public woodlands. Slovenian law prohibits entry into virgin forests marked with blue color signs. If the bear is in there, it can only be observed from the paths.
It’s crucial to never collect endangered flora or destroy undergrowth. Keep water sources clean.
For better safety and lesser impact on nature, follow preset paths. Ride vehicles on intended roads and consider existing restrictions. Do not cause any unnecessary noises during your tour to prevent disturbing the animals. Alert them of your presence by speaking.
Do not feed or touch any of the forest animals, even if the cubs look abandoned. Make sure also to have the right equipment for your tour. Wear suitable footwear, clothes, and protect yourself at all times.
The Slovenian brown bear is a beautiful, majestic creature. Seeing it in its natural habitat is an incredible experience that you’ll usually only experience once. If you have time, a bear watching experience is a must-try if you’re in Slovenia.
Make sure to check with your tour provider so you can get an experienced guide with you. Make reservations early to make sure the entire process is smooth for you. Provide your information, together with the location where you will meet up.
If bear watching is not your thing, there are so many things to do in Ljubljana and in other Slovenian locales. Talk to an expert guide today and find out everything you can do in this beautiful country.