The animal world of the Green Ring of Zagreb

Zagreb County is mostly recognized as a rural area with developed agriculture, so it is expected that the most common animals would be those we all know—domestic animals from local farms and rural households. However, the green areas that are far from the cities and villages are inhabited by numerous other creatures, small and big ones. They run, jump, fly, slither and swim around us, and they have chosen the Zagreb area as their home for a good reason. Due to clean, preserved nature and versatile terrain, the area of around 3000 square kilometres actually houses an impressive number of animal species. We do not get to see a large number of these wild animals every day, but maybe that is for the better. Some of them are rare, endangered and protected, and people have the responsibility of making their coexistence with civilization calm and pleasant. Here are some of our less known, and immensely interesting animal neighbors from the Green Ring of Zagreb.

  1. European pine marten (Martes martes)

Even though it inhabits forests across Europe, this little beast with precious fur is especially dear to us because we carry it on our national currency. It likes old forests with thick trees, and we can find it in the deep shade of the Nature Park Žumberak–Samobor Hills or the riparian forest of Varoš. You will recognize it by a gold and yellow speck on its neck and chest, as opposed to the beech marten, a member of the smaller species, who sports a white fleck.

  1. White-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla)

The largest eagle in Europe and the largest bird of prey in these areas is a grandiose animal with a wingspan of up to two and a half meters. Viciously looking, these birds are gentle souls who have the same spouse during their whole lives. In Croatia, they inhabit areas near rivers and swamps, but there is not a lot of them, and they are endangered because humans destroy their natural habitats. The riparian forest of Jastrebarsko, the riparian forest of Varoš, Crna mlaka and Lonjsko polje are areas in which the eagles feel good and safe.

  1. Wildcat (Felis silvestris)

We are used to seeing many house and street cats across villages and towns, so those wild ones that live around the woods do not seem especially exotic to us. However, the dexterous and agile ancestor of domestic cats is a strictly protected species that is not often found anymore. It is a skillful hunter with almost no natural enemies, and it differs from the tabby cat with its stronger body, bigger head, longer fur and bigger claws. Do not try to pet it if you ever meet.

  1. Eurasian penduline tit (Remiz pendulinus)

Commonly known as penduline tit, this tiny migratory bird is getting more and more endangered, so it is good to know that it has found a nesting place right here, in the vicinity of Zagreb. Its nests that hang from the trees really are tiny construction masterpieces. They like being near water, so they inhabit the Sava–Strmec area, the area that has a status of a bird reserve thanks to the penduline tit.

  1. Alpine pine vole (Microtus multiplex)

When it comes to glacial relicts, Turopolje has something to bring to the table as well! Glacial relicts are cold-adapted animal species that used to be widely present in the past, during the ice ages, but now, only some of them live in very limited habitats. One of these cute little endemic species of rodents has come here from the Alps, and it has found its piece of land in the Forest of Motovun and south of the Sava River.

  1. European tree frog (Hyla arborea)

One of the smallest frogs of Europe, only a few centimeters long, likes thriving vegetation and damp areas. The lovable green creature is a frequent inhabitant of the Green Ring of Zagreb, and after spending winter under the earth, it comes out in spring. If you hear its ribbit during summer droughts, you can hope that it has predicted rain, but, that may also be just a mating call of male frogs.

  1. Alpine salamander (Salamandra atra atra)

Fire salamander—the black one with yellow spots—is commonly found in our forests, but its completely black and slightly smaller relative is very rarely seen. It likes high, cold and damp areas, which makes sense because it is an amphibian, not a lizard. In Croatia, it can be found in only a small number of areas, and one of such places is Žumberak. Since it is poisonous, predators do not attack it, so it can live a peaceful life in the forest.

  1. Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx)

The largest European wildcat is a very endangered species and is under strict protection. Around fifty years ago, they have almost been exterminated, but the population was saved by specimens from the Carpathian Mountains. The skillful and mysterious hunter with rich fur is recognizable by black tufts at the top of its ears. It is presumed that there are less than one hundred specimens in Croatia, and they usually inhabit the area south of Zagreb County. In these areas, they can sometimes be found in the woody parts of Žumberak.

  1. Ferruginous duck (Aythya nyroca)

Different species of ducks inhabit our areas, and the ferruginous duck is one of the endangered species. It lives in river and wetland areas, and you will recognize it by its red-brown plumage and bright eyes characteristic of males. One of their gathering places in Europe is Crna mlaka, where they enjoy swimming and hunting fish while waiting to migrate.

  1. Beaver (Castor fiber)

The greatest lumberjack and construction workers among rodents, they have been autochthonous habitants of Croatia in Posavina more than a century ago, until they have disappeared for unknown reasons. However, beavers made a huge comeback when they progressively returned in the 1990s, by means of a donation from Bavaria. Under the supervision of experts, they settled down in Žutica forest in Lonjsko polje, where they found ideal living conditions and spread from there.

  1. White stork (Ciconia ciconia)

Every spring, many villages and towns happily await the return of their favorite animal neighbors. Roofs of houses and poles get adorned with storks peeking from their nests. It is a long tradition and a sign of preserved nature—storks choose only clean, healthy environments for their homes. In Croatia, they prefer Zagreb County as their habitat, where they have around 250 nests. You have the best opportunities for stork-watching in Vrbovec, Ivanić-Grad, Pisarovina, Klinča Sela, Donja Kupčina and Donja Zdenčina.

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