Find out about the most common species in the Triglav National Park.
The wildlife of Triglav National Park is incredibly diverse, as it encompasses a multitude of animal species ranging from microscopically small to relatively large mammals, found both in the waters and on land.
There are approximately 7,000 different species living within Triglav National Park. This remarkable diversity is influenced by diverse climatic conditions, varied topography, geological foundations, and a wide range of habitats.
The Alpine ibex (Capra ibex) is a strong, thickset and shapely wild goat with greyish hair. It lives in mountain grasslands above the tree line, and in winter it moves to the tree line. The animals are very agile and can achieve a standing jump of 2 m and a running jump of 4 m.
Cross-breeds between the Alpine ibex and the domestic goat are quite common.
Males have large, backwards-curving horns. which were believed to have medicinal properties, leading to the species near extinction in the 16th century. They have only survived in the area of Gran Paradiso, Italy. All present-day ibexes in Europe are descendants of the Gran Paradiso population.
In the Triglav National Park the reintroduction of the alpine ibex started in 1964, first in the Zadnjica Valley in Trenta.
The chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) is the most typical animal species inhabiting the alpine territory. In summer months the chamois prefers open rocky terrains above the tree line, and in winter it resides in forests. If the winter is very harsh, it will even move to the valleys. In summer chamois are active in the morning and evening, and in winter their activity is spread out throughout the day.
Chamois are social animals, but old bucks are usually solitary.
The natural predators of chamois are the wolf and lynx, and the mountain eagle who preys on chamois young. Common causes of mortality include jumps from rock cliffs, avalanches, and diseases. In 1909, when an avalanche swept away the Aljažev dom lodge in the Vrata Valley, a total of about 400 chamois were killed by avalanches in the three Triglav valleys of Kot, Krma and Vrata.
The red deer (Cervus elaphus) inhabits forests from lowlands to the tree line. It prefers places where forest edges meet open areas. Generally, red deer are up to 130 cm high. During daytime, they rest in the shadows of the trees, and when the sun sets they start grazing.
In the Triglav National Park, red deer first occurred several decades ago, but today the species is among the most numerous.
Red deer are ruminants foraging mostly on grass, herbs, tree sprouts, bark, leaves and arable crops. They live in herds. Unlike females, males grow large, impressive antlers. During the rut, mature stags make their calls and compete for the attention of the hinds.
During the Ice Age, the alpine marmot (Marmota marmota) was quite common and widely spread in the territory of present-day Slovenia, but it became extinct at the end of that period. It was reintroduced to the area at the end of the 20th century. Today it inhabits mountain meadows and screes.
During hibernation, the body temperature of marmots will drop to almost the same as the air around them. The marmot wakes up if the temperature falls below zero; otherwise, it would freeze to death.
Marmots are herbivores and spend most of their awake time collecting preserves for the winter. Excellent diggers, alpine marmots use their sharp forepaws to dig burrow tunnels which provide shelter from predators and the elements. Marmots sleep through winter in winter dens that may be up to five metres deep. During hibernation their body temperature drops and their heart rate and breathing slow down. They survive on stored fat supplies collected over the summer months. Marmots wake up when snow starts to melt away.
The edible dormouse (Glis glis) is a nocturnal rodent. Its habitat includes beech and oak forests. Dormice are active during night time, and sleep through the day in their dens and tree hollows. They feed mainly on beech mast and acorn.
In Slovenia the tradition of dormice hunting is still alive.
Food supply has a strong influence on the fertility of dormice as well as their hibernation process, which normally lasts from October to March. If food is scarce, dormice will even sleep through summer. In the last decades edible dormice in Central Europe have been waking up from hibernation rather early, a phenomenon closely linked to climate change.
The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) adapts very quickly to changes in its environment. It resides in forests, near human settlements, and even in the vicinity of large towns. Red foxes are very agile and fast animals, mostly active at night, when they hunt for prey. They also feed on waste and carrion.
The red fox hunts rodents with the typical fox jump. It leaps, sailing high above its quarry, and then lands on its target, grabbing it with front claws.
Most of the year red foxes lead a solitary life. They either dig their burrows or use the burrows constructed by badgers, and use their urine to mark their territories. Red foxes reproduce once or twice a year, normally in winter. The gestation period lasts 52 days. In spring, the female gives birth to four to eight kits, who stay with their parents for about four months. Vixens help raise the kits. In the wild, red foxes survive an average of three to four years.
The brown bear (Ursus arctos) population in Slovenia stands at 400 to 500 with most of the animals residing in the Kočevje forests. In the territory of the Triglav National Park, individual brown bears are occasionally spotted on the Pokljuka plateau, in the Lower Bohinj Mountains, the Trenta Valley and the area of Tolmin.
The brown bear sleeps through the cold winter months in its den. During hibernation, its body temperature declines by 2 ˚C and its metabolic functions slow down slightly. The hibernation period is affected by the weather conditions and food deficit. In three or more months in the den, the brown bear loses 30-50% of body weight, which it makes up for in the summer and autumn.
The brown bear can run very fast (60 km/h), swim and even climb.
Brown bears feed on forest fruits, underground and green parts of plants, fungi, rodents and carrion. As predators, bears are also known to prey on cattle. The brown bear requires a large well-preserved habitat with minimum human impact.
The black grouse (Tetrao tetrix) belongs to the grouse family. The female is greyish brown. The cock’s plumage is metallic black, apart form a red comb above the eyes, a white wingbar and white feathers on the lower side of the lyre-shaped white tail which appears forked during mating.
They make dove-like calls.
Black grouse live near the tree line, in particular in the dwarf pine stands.Their diet consists of blueberries, cranberries, juniper berries, and small invertebrates found in the soil. During nesting and caring for the young, black grouse are highly sensitive to cold and rainy weather, which can devastate complete nests, thereby affecting local black grouse populations.
The capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) is the largest member of the grouse family. The hen's feathers are protective brown with black and silver barring, while male birds are dark metallic green. The capercaillie reside in mountainous mixed and coniferous forests.
Hormonal disturbances may cause capercaillie to become aggressive and lose their fear of humans. Studies show that this phenomenon might result from excessive human intervention into capercaillie habitats.
The species is renowned for its mating display. In spring the males gather at courting grounds, called leks, posture themselves with raised and fanned tail feathers and sing their typical aria, which sounds like a series of 'clicks' and 'pops'. It is generally known that the capercaillie do not respond to any activity in their surrounding while singing. Otherwise, the bird is very shy.
The rock ptarmigan (Lagopus muta) is a medium-sized gamebird in the grouse family. The bird inhabits grassy slopes strewn with rocks and small shrubs, just above the tree line.
Rock ptarmigans are seasonally camouflaged: their feathers moult from white in winter to greyish brown in summer. They have white feathers covering their legs and feet up to toes.
In winter the males can be distinguished from the females by a dark stripe that extends from behind each eye to the bill. Both males and females have a red comb above their eyes.
In spring females moult earlier than males. This way, the female incubating its eggs is still safely camouflaged, while the male's white winter plumage distracts predators away from the nest. The bird nests in mid-June. It lays 6-15 eggs into a shallow pit and incubates them for approximately 24 days. It feeds on seeds, fruits, sprouts, buds, leaves, and adds insects and other animals to its diet in the summer.
Eurasian pygmy owl
The Eurasian pygmy owl (Glaucidium passerinum) is a very small owl, measuring only 15-20 cm. It is found in boreal coniferous forests. Pygmy owls nest in tree cavities. They prey on small mammals and birds.
The call of the Eurasian pygmy owl sends passerines flying away in fear they might become prey themselves.
Unlike other owls, the Eurasian pygmy owl is mostly active at dawn, dusk, and even daytime during nesting period. At night the owl rests, and its call can only exceptionally be heard during bright, moonlit nights. When excited, the owl will cock its tail, flicking it from side to side.
The black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) is the largest in the woodpecker family. It can measure up to 46 cm. It lives in nearly all forests where it can find at least a few thick and old trees. The woodpecker makes a hole in a healthy tree and leaves it for a few years to strengthen before using it as a nest.
The habitat of the black woodpecker can measure over 100 ha, which accounts for the species’ low population density in forests.
The bird has several forms of voice communication. It uses a special call when it is at home and other calls are used for mating time, time to flee, or danger alert. Black woodpeckers feed on insects found in decaying tree trunks, ants being their favourite food.
The white-throated dipper (Cinclus cinclus) is slightly larger than the sparrow. It has short wings and rather long and strong feet. The dipper lives in areas near clear mountain rivers with many rapids and rocks. It searches for food under the water surface, using its bill to turn over stones in search of aquatic insect larvae and other tiny animals. The dipper's moss-made nest is near the water, built into in a crack or hollow in the rock, on the shore, entangled in tree roots or mounted on the supports of a bridge.
The white-throated dipper is the only passerine bird that can dive as well as swim.
White-throated dippers are most commonly found near the Savica Waterfall and the rivers Radovna and Soča. Their population is threatened by regulation of streams and rivers, human disturbance during nesting, and pollution of surface waters.
The grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) is found along the shores of forest and mountain streams and small rivers.
As its name suggests, the grey wagtail constantly wags its tail while walking.
Its grey upper parts contrast with whitish under parts and yellow vent and tail. The feet are reddish-brown, unlike in other vagrants, which have black feet.
Grey wagtails build nests among the roots of shoreline vegetation, in holes in manmade structures near water, and on bridge supports. The nest is made of moss, dry grass blades and small roots, and bedded with animal hairs. The bird feeds mainly on insects and insect larvae.
The Alpine swift (Tachymarptis melba) is at home in rocky mountains. Swifts have very short legs which make it hard for them to walk. With all four toes facing forward, the swift lands on vertical rock faces rather than on flat surfaces.
The Alpine swift can fly at a speed of up to 200km/h.
It nests in vertical cracks in steep rocks and overhangs. In autumn Alpine swifts migrate to tropical Africa and India. Their diet consists mainly of insects, which they snatch whilst in flight.
The golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) used to inhabit lowland forests. Hunted by humans, it withdrew to higher, more inaccessible places which are now its habitat.
Boasting a wing span of 2 m, the golden eagle is the largest eagle in Slovenia.
It is a predator, able to snatch up large animals, e.g. hares, capercaillie, marmots or foxes, and even chamois kits. It is not uncommon that the prey will exceed the eagle's body size and will need lots of energy to be taken away.
Golden eagles nest in inaccessible and hidden rock shelves, rock crevices, and an occasional tree. The female lays two eggs. After about 40 days, the young will hatch, but only a quarter of them will ever reach maturity.
The Alpine (Pyrrhocorax graculus) chough is a sociable, black raven of high mountains. Its glossy black plumage contracts with the yellow bill and red legs. It inhabits steep mountains sloped above the tree line, and in winter it descends to the valley settlements.
The Alpine chough is swift and acrobatic in flight. It can fly in strong wind, loosely beating its wings.
It subsides on a diet of invertebrates, carrion, fruit and seeds. Near mountain lodges and on summits it will readily feed on food waste, and often persuade hikers and skiers to give them a treat form their backpacks.
Willow Tit (Poecile montanus) tit is a passerine bird. It nests in tree trunks, excavating a nesting hole in rotten stumps or in the soft wood of decaying trees.
Willow tits live in coniferous and mixed forests at an altitude of 800 to 1500 m, up to the dwarf pine belt. In winter they move from high-altitude forests to lower altitude woods.
In autumn the willow tit stashes away the surplus of seeds for winter feeding. When winter starts they move from high-altitude forests to lower altitude woods. In Slovenia the willow tit is a relatively common resident bird, with distribution area spanning from the Julian Alps to the Pohorje range.
The wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria) is a colourful bird. They prefer rocks with patches of vegetation. Their diet primarily consists of insects and various invertebrates.
Its extraordinary crimson wings are similar to a butterfly's.
During nesting wallcreepers reside in shady and humid precipitous rock faces, building a cup nest into rocks hollows or on a pile of rocks. In warmer parts of the Alps, the wallcreeper starts nesting at the end of April, but most birds will nest between May and June. Outside the nesting period, wallcreepers reside in rocky sites at lower altitudes.
The Soča trout (Salmo marmoratus) is a freshwater fish species endemic to the rivers draining to the Adriatic Sea. In Slovenia, it can be found in the Soča and its tributaries, as well as in the Reka and the Rižana rivers.
The largest Soča trout caught measured 121 cm and weighed 25 kg.
The Soča trout is famous for its relatively large head and a characteristic marbled colour pattern on a grey-white skin. It is among the most threatened species, its population declining because of pollution, destruction of the natural environment and, most importantly, ongoing crossbreeding with the brook trout, which was brought to the Soča trout's natural habitat at the beginning of the 20th century.
The Rosalia longicorn (Rosalia alpina) is a large beetle which lives in old beech forests at an altitude between 600 and 1200 m. It is 2 to 4 cm long.
The longicorns have been named after their long antennae which resemble horns.
Females lay the eggs within a crack in the bark of decaying and old beech trees. The development from the egg over larva and pupa lasts three to four years. Rosalia longicorns often lay the eggs in lumber stored in the forest. If the lumber is transported and processed fast, the eggs are lost. The decline in the species population is also due to the removal of old and decaying beech trees and reforestation with spruce.
The Caddisflies (Trichoptera) are an order of insects. Mature caddisflies are moth-like animals having two pairs of hairy membranous wings and long, thread-like antennas. They have aquatic larvae that carry protective cases made of small pebbles and other debris.
Caddisflies use silk excreted from salivary glands near their mouths for building their protective cases. They wrap the silk threads around themselves and decorate them with various materials.
They are an important source of food for fish, aquatic birds and other predators. Most caddisflies species live near springs and in streams, less frequently in standing water bodies. Due to their high sensitivity to pollution, caddisflies play a significant role in bioassessment surveys conducted in streams and other water bodies.
Common European viper
The common European viper (Vipera berus) is one of the three venomous viper species to be found in Slovenia. Adults grow 60 to 80 cm in length. The oval head widens into a zig-zag patterned, relatively-thick body and short tail.
The head usually has a distinctive dark X or V on the back.
The common adder feeds on small mammals, birds, lizards and amphibians. It paralyses its prey with a bite and then swallows the victim whole.
Adders are particularly common in the mountains, on scree slopes, near mountain trails, meadows, pasturelands and wetlands. In the lowlands, they keep close to places where humidity is high.
The alpine salamander (Salamandra atra) spends most of its time in hideouts within tiny cracks, crevices, cavities and under decaying bark. The only time it leaves these safe havens is in the morning or at night when air humidity is highest. After rain, it also comes outside at daytime. The salamander avoids high temperatures and wind.
The alpine salamander has poison glands running along both sides of its body to scare away predators.
It prefers mixed forests, areas above the tree line, grasslands and rocky pasturelands. The species has efficiently adapted to life at higher elevations and in the dry karst territory. Thanks to its black skin, the salamander warms up fast in the sun even in the cold mountains.
Unlike other amphibians, the salamander does not need water to reproduce. The female gives birth to live young, who look like mature specimens and are able to live on land. The phenomenon is known as ovoviviparity.
The alpine newt (Mesotriton alpestris) is an amphibian, adapted to life in colder climates. In the Triglav National Park alpine newts live an altitude of 1100 to 1600 m. They are frequently found in ponds, tyre tracks and puddles forming on skid trails.
During the mating season, male newts develop sky-blue stripes along their flanks, and a white-black-spotted ridge on their backs.
The females can grow up to 12 cm, and the males are slightly smaller. Unlike in other newts, the belly of an alpine newt is bright orange-red. Alpine newts often undergo incomplete transformation, which means that individuals may be sexually mature but will retain certain characteristics of a larva, e.g. gills. Such newts were found in the lake Črno jezero and the lake on the Planina pri Jezeru.