Large Carnivores

Central and Eastern Europe has maintained a relatively high density of large carnivores compared with the West of the continent. The region is home to approximately 4,600 wolves, 9,000 bears and 2,200 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, compromised ecological connectivity, inadequate waste management, and 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, frequently finding themselves isolated in managing the challenges of coexistence, which increases illegal shooting and poisoning of these protected mammals. One of the key challenges is the low awareness among local stakeholders of the value of large carnivores and how they could protect their herds and beehives. This creates space for misleading information which is further amplified by mass media outlets that frequently lack objectivity and strongly influences the public and policy-makers perception.


  • 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;
  • Advocating for access to funding and know-how for stakeholders for damage compensations and preventive measures (e.g. electric fences, guarding dogs) thus reducing HWC;
  • Increasing  prosecution of wildlife crime cases;
  • Promoting consistent cross-border monitoring.


  • WWF-CEE-lead SaveGREEN project, aiming at safeguarding the functionality of transnationally important ecological corridors in the Danube Basin was successfully completed. Solutions, best practices, and examples of linear transport infrastructure, urban development, intensive agriculture, forestry, and water management practices related to the enhancement of ecological connectivity are available
  • An increasing involvement of WWF-CEE in cross-sectoral and scientific collaborations aimed at developing multi-stakeholder solutions to address the complex challenges associated with ecological connectivity. Initiatives such as the Horizon project NaturaConnect is an example of this collaborative approach. In partnership with 22 institutions from across 15 European countries, WWF-CEE will contribute towards developing a Trans-European Nature Network (TEN-N), that addresses gaps in the coverage of priority habitats and species, and brings added coherence to the existing network of the European Union’s Natura 2000 sites and other nationally-designated protected areas.
  • Another example of cross-institutional collaboration is the LECA project, where WWF-CEE plays an important role in supporting the coexistence and conservation of Carpathian large carnivores. We are introducing an efficient monitoring approach involving local stakeholders (hunters, foresters, farmers, livestock and beekeepers, police investigators) for up-to-date population data in cross-border regions, coupled with effective conflict prevention measures. We have been contributing to establishing the first bear-smart communities in the Tusnad area, Romania and creating a Guideline on Large carnivore Conservation and Coexistence in the Carpathians.
  • WWF-CEE partners have been actively involved in increasing awareness and capacity of prosecutors and selected law enforcement authorities to provide effective environmental compliance assurance, enhance cross-border knowledge exchange, and increase cooperation between relevant authorities to reduce wildlife crime in Europe. In the frame of the LIFE SWiPE project the first national wildlife crime reports  and an European summary report  have been published to reveal the devastating impact of wildlife crime; more than 5 mln people were reached as a result of the national and European WLC reports and associated media campaigns. 
  • In 2023 Hungary maintained “zero hunting” regulations. Positive attitude of people and stakeholders towards large carnivore species continues to increase also as a result of well-targeted communication and awareness work like the award-winning campaign Roomies from the Wild. 
  • In all of the CEE countries conservation teams are encountering challenges related to the growing number of human-wildlife conflicts and are dedicating resources to implementing holistic strategies for conflict mitigation. Their efforts also focus on increasing awareness among local communities and institutions and demonstrating the effect of preventive measures.
  • Successful start of telemetry studies of lynx in the Ukrainian Carpathians and Polissya region (northern Ukraine). The research will detect variations in the lynx population structure, migration patterns, dietary preferences, seasonal and daily behaviours, use of habitat, breeding locations.
  • 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: the "Methodology for Identification of Ecological Corridors in the Carpathian Countries by Using Large Carnivores as Umbrella Species”, the “International Action Plan on Conservation of Large Carnivores and Ensuring Ecological Connectivity in the Carpathians” 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.


  • 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