Results of monitoring large carnivores in NPs Golija, Zlatibor and Kopaonik
The brown bear (Ursus arctos) is the largest beast of the carnivores order in our country. It was once widespread in the territory of Serbia. However, by the end of the twentieth century, brown bear habitats in Serbia were constantly declining, which was accompanied by declining populations.
Nowadays species native range includes mountainous areas in the west, southwest and central parts of Serbia, as well as mountainous areas between the Danube and Crni Timok rivers (inhomogeneously populated) in northeastern and eastern Serbia, with a small disjunctive enclave on Stara Planina Mt.
In order to effectively protect the bear as a strictly protected species and prevent damage to households located in the area of bears’ habitats, the Institute for Nature Conservation of Serbia and PE "Srbijašume", as the manager of the protected areas of the Golija Nature Park and Zlatibor Nature Park , which are located in the natural native range of brown bear in Serbia, launched a bear monitoring project in Golija first in 2017 and in 2019 expanded their project activities to the area of Zlatibor.
During the project implementation period, it was noted that the bear population was stable and on a slight increase, and that the number of reports on the damage has been reduced this year, in terms of occurrence and damage reporting dynamics. It was a realistic assumption that one of the reasons for that was the fact that the yield of forest and other fruits this year was noticeably higher than in the previous year, and that due to the activation of the old/new feeding places and the intensive maintenance of the existing ones, there was the reduction in damage claims, as well as regarding the extent of the damage caused.
The most recent data suggest a significant recovery of the species, followed by an increase in population and native range expansion (areas of distribution). In this regard, "unusual" occurrences were also recorded during 2019 in Koceljeva, on the Gledićke Mountains north of Trstenik and near Lapovo.
During the third year of the project, additional data were collected on the presence and movement of brown bears in the Golija Nature Park.
Previously, the number of individuals was estimated at 15 to 20 permanently or occasionally present individuals of both sexes and different age categories. In light of the latest data, we may conclude that the number of brown bears in the park continues to be a stable, with the possibility of a slight increase, and that the numbers can be estimated at 30 individuals or even more.
Certainly, further formation and functioning of sites for additional bear feeding is important for preserving further favorable status of this species in Serbia, as well as for the reduction of the damage caused by brown bears.
During 2019, a project was launched with the PE Kopaonik National Park to collect initial data on the presence of wolves and brown bears in the Kopaonik National Park, as a basis for further research.
Some earlier assumptions about the presence of at least three or four wolf packs temporarily or permanently active in the protected area will be subject to review in the coming period. It has been noted that the occurrence of brown bear is increasing. It has also been concluded that for the sake of monitoring and planning management of the wolf population the formation and/or activation of feeding sites should be considered. In this regard, three sites have been proposed so far.
Continuation of field research, realization of objectives and the completion of data under the current project have been planned for the winter and spring seasons of the year 2020.
After the brown bear, the wolf is the largest beast of the carnivores order (Carnivora) in Serbia. The species native range in our country is relatively wide. In the area south of the Sava and Danube, the wolf is only missing from the area of Mačva and the valley of the Velika Morava River. In the territory of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, the population strives in the area of Deliblato sands and Vršac Mountains. Continuous conflicts with humans, of almost historic proportions, have also led to occasional local disappearance of wolves populations, however, the wolves have to this day maintained a stable population status in Serbia, as well as in the wider Balkan region.