Large Carnivores

Central and Eastern Europe has maintained a relatively high density of large carnivores compared with the West of the continent. The Carpathian mountains alone are home to approximately 4,300 wolves, 9,000 bears and 2,500 lynx. They are often keystone species, meaning that they play a significant role in the health of their ecosystem. Through hunting, carnivores prevent an overabundance of herbivores and thereby protect vegetation from being too heavily grazed or browsed.


Large carnivores are threatened by illegal hunting, increasing fragmentation and shrinkage of their habitats primarily caused by infrastructure development. Conflicts between people and large carnivores are growing, as animals are driven out of their natural habitats and get used to finding their food close to human settlements such as sheep, waste, honey, or crops. Increasingly, people in the countryside feel threatened and kill these protected mammals illegally.


  • Securing critical corridors and conservation areas.

  • Promoting  public and stakeholder awareness regarding bears, wolves and lynx – to increase appreciation and understanding of these magnificent animals and their vital role in managing ecosystems.

  • Helping people avoid unnecessary conflicts with them.

  • Increasing  prosecution of poaching cases.


  • WWF-CEE leads a consortium of 13 organizations to implement the project SaveGREEN, aiming at safeguarding the functionality of transnationally important ecological corridors in the Danube Basin. Project activities aim at counteracting the fact that linear transport infrastructure, urban development, intensive agricultural, forestry, and water management practices can interrupt ecological corridors, cause traffic-deaths, and lower the reproductive success of key species such as large carnivores.

  • WWF-Bulgaria started the implementation of a holistic program for bear protection, including the operation of a Bear Rescue Squad. The brown bear is strictly protected under the EU Habitats Directive and Bulgarian legislation. Despite its protection, the Bulgarian population of this iconic species is rapidly declining. The WWF  goal is to stabilize the bear population in Bulgaria and move towards a harmonious coexistence between bears and people. 

  • WWF-Ukraine won the United Nation’s Global Compact 2020 Partnership for Sustainable Development Award in the “Planet” category. The champion project is called ‘Coexistence for Conservation!’. Sixteen electric fences were installed during the year to protect property, livestock and bee hives from large carnivores as a means to promote co-existence and prevent human-wildlife conflicts. Since the fences were erected, there has not been any damage to those people's property from large carnivores.

  • Carpathian governments adopted an action plan on large carnivore conservation. The parties to the Carpathian Convention adopted a number of important documents to which WWF-CEE made substantial contributions: an international action plan on the conservation of large carnivores and ensuring ecological connectivity; and a strategic action plan  for the implementation of the Protocol on Sustainable Transport, which integrates objectives of ensuring landscape connectivity for large carnivores and other wildlife.

  • Until 2020, Slovakia, unlike neighbouring countries, permitted wolf hunting during the hunting season by setting high annual quotas. Over the last two decades, almost 1,800 wolves have been legally killed. In response, a campaign for the full protection of wolves was launched by WWF-Slovakia and 30 partner organisations. Their joint petition to stop wolf hunting received over 51,000 signatures and massive attention from media and the public. The pressure was enough to secure passage of new legislation banning hunting of wolves in Slovakia as of 1 June 2021.  


  • Farmers will have learned to minimize economic damage to livestock and beehives inflicted by large carnivores by taking up solutions for damage control and compensation leverage suggested by WWF. 

  • Populations of priority species will be managed within and across borders based on comparable, sound data using protocols and innovative methods developed by WWF and partners. 

  • Major EU-funded infrastructure projects do not harm ecological connectivity due to guidelines and solutions advocated by WWF. 

  • WWF has continued to focus public attention to wildlife crime and trained and influenced enforcement authorities and judiciary to investigate and prosecute it effectively  


The brown bear is the largest predator still living on the continent of Europe. They can reach a weight of between 150 and 370 kg depending on age, sex and season. Despite their weight, the animals can cover short distances at speeds of up to 50 km/h.

Bears appearing in residential areas or on tourist routes often takes place as a direct result of their feeding by tour operators or free access to improperly stored waste.

If you live near a bear-populated area, are preparing to go hiking, camping or for a walk in the woods,  you can get learn how to avoid encounters with bears and how to behave preventively along the way from watching the following three animations:

  • How to prevent the appearance of bears in the residential area where you live
  • What to do if you come across a bear (retreat or protection)
  • Where and how to camp, how to store food



Header image: Brown bear (Ursus arctos) running near Zarnesti in the Central Carpathian Mountains, Romania. © Michel Gunther / WWF
Captive female and kitten Eurasian Lynx

Captive female and kitten Eurasian Lynx

© Staffan Widstrand / WWF

Wolf (Canis lupus) Javorova Valley, National Park High Tatras, Slovakia

Wolf (Canis lupus) Javorova Valley, National Park High Tatras, Slovakia

© Tomas Hulik

Electric fences and sheep dogs reduce human-wildlife conflict.

Electric fences and sheep dogs reduce human-wildlife conflict.

© WWF-Slovakia