Bears, lynxes, wolves return to Czech Republic

The last week has seen numerous reports about how wild animals like wolves, lynxes and bears have returned to the Czech Republic. Organisations monitoring these animals like Friends of the Earth say there are small numbers in places like the Beskydy Mountains on the Slovak border. Jan Velinger spoke to the group’s Miroslav Kutal who spent the weekend in the field monitoring their numbers.

“We have a lot of data from the last decade about large omnivores and carnivores in the Beskydy and Šumava Mountains and we can now say that these large animals are present in the Czech Republic. In the Beskydy Mountains we have two packs of wolves, and about 20 lynx, with an additional 50 in other areas. And we also have some bears: from one to five bears.”

My understanding is that there were bears here in previous centuries but that there was then a large gap. Where are these new specimens coming from?

“All of the large carnivores come from Slovakia, where there are much higher populations than in the Czech Republic. The bears also come from there, the Beskydy are right on the Slovak border. They know no borders of course and can cross into the Czech Republic.”

Does that mean that we can expect a higher number of such animals in the future?

“It’s possible but there are some problems, among them poaching and migration barriers. We are currently checking conditions for bears in our mountains and many areas are suitable. But it is often difficult for the animals: either they are illegally hunted or they can not overcome barriers such as highways. We take part in decision processes concerning highways as well as new built areas versus migration corridors. We deal with authorities and locals to try and keep areas and corridors open.”

On a different note, many Czechs enjoy the outdoors: do you have any recommendations, for example, for tourists?

“Wolves and lynxes are not dangerous for tourists. The only problem can with bears. It is recommended to not enter closed parts of nature reserves, where they could encounter bears feeding on blueberries and other berries. As long as tourists keep to marked paths, I don’t think problems are likely.”