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Bieszczadzki PN arrow Vertebrate fauna

Vertebrate fauna

Linking bird species with specific biocoenoses is not always possible. With a certain simplification, most of the small song-bird species can be linked to the Bieszczady forest communities. The fauna of primeval forests also features birds-of-prey and owls: the lesser spotted eagle Aquila pomarina, spotted eagle A. clanga, short-toed eagle Circaëtus gallicus, black stork Ciconia nigra and golden eagle Aquila chrysaëtos, as well as the eagle owl Bubo bubo, Ural owl Strix uralensis, and tawny owl Strix aluco. The rare alpine species include: the mountain accentor Prunella collaris and water pipit Anthus spinoletta which are associated with the subalpine zone.

The mammals of the Bieszczady National Park and its buffer zone represent 58 species. The most numerous group of species are small mammals: rodents, insectivores, bats etc. The attraction of the Carpathian forests lies in the presence of large predators, such as the brown bear Ursus arctos, wolf Canis lupus, red fox Vulpes vulpes, badger Meles meles, otter Lutra lutra, wildcat Felis silvestris, lynx Felis lynx, and large herbivores: wisent (European bison) Bison bonasus, red deer Cervus elaphus, moose Alces alces, roe deer Capreolus capreolus, and wild boar Sus scrofa.

From 1992 onwards a successful effort has been made to re-introduce beaver Castor fiber in the Bieszczady Park (Derwich 1995, Glowacinski (red.) 2000).

A zoogeograhical analysis of the fauna of the Bieszczady area have resulted in the classifying of them into the following interesting groups:

— boreal-alpine species: three-toed woodpecker Picoides tridactylus, ring ouzel Turdus torquatus,

— mountain species: alpine shrew Sorex alpinus, grey wagtail Motacilla cinerea, dipper Cinclus cinclus, salamander Salamandra salamandra, mountain newt Triturus alpestris, Carpathian newt T. montandoni, yellow-bellied toad Bombina variegata,

— North-European species, e.g. nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes, Ural owl Strix uralensis, pygmy owl Glaucidium passerinum,

— thermophilous species: blue rock trush Monticola saxatilis and collared flycatcher Ficedula albicollis,

— unique species that occasionally visit the Park, such as the peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus, booted eagle Hieraëtus pennatus and, extremely rarely, an Egyptian vulture Neophron subbuteo.

Man has always been interested in large conspicuous species, mainly mammals. These evoke respect or admiration, some of them were game animals. The animal species of the Bieszczady mountains which are interesting not only to naturalists, include:

1. The brown bear Ursus arctos, the most powerful predator in Polish fauna, is a true ruler of the East-Carpathian primeval forest. The length of the bear’s body is 170–250 cm, its height at the shoulder ranges from 125–135 cm, and its weight from 150 to 400 kg. In the past, the brown bear occurred throughout Europe, Asia and North America. Today it is an endangered species; in Poland it is under strict protection.

The brown bear settles permanently in its territory. It moves about slowly but when needed it is capable of galloping at speeds of up to 65 km per hour, although only over short distances. Bears can swim, and young individuals can climb trees skilfully. The bear ventures in search for food at night, spending days in its lair set up in the thickest parts of the forests. The bear is an omnivorous animal: feeds on tender shoots of plants, tubers, forest fruits and mushrooms, and likes to visit oat and maize fields. One favourite food is honey, which it obtains from the hives of wild bees but by robbing apiaries. Bears also catch rodents, fish, frogs and insect larvae, and even feed on carrion. Sometimes they rake up ant nests to get pupae. From time to time bears attack sheep or cattle staying on pastures overnight. Humans, however, can only come under attack from a wounded bear or by a female guarding her cubs.

In autumn bears feed intensively to build up the fat reserves for the period of winter hibernation. Each bear has a winter lair in thickets, under fallen trees or in rock crevices and uses the same lair for a couple of years. Within the Park several bear lairs were discovered. During the winter hibernation period the female bear gives birth to cubs, mostly between one and three, and cares for them into the second year of their life. The males are solitary animals. Each male maintains a territory of ca. 2000 hectares marked by scratches on tree bark which it tries to place as high above the ground as possible. Bears can reach the age of 40 years.

Studies on the brown bear population in the Bieszczady mountains have been, for many years, conducted by Jakubiec (1993).

The Bieszczady mountains are currently the most important refuge of the brown bear in Poland. At present the Bieszczady population is about 50 animals strong. The distribution range of this population can be determined by studying the traces of its presence: tracks, marked trees, dens and winter lairs, damage caused – and also by actual sightings.



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