The Tatra Mountains lie along the border of southern Poland and northern Slovakia. This spectacular mountain range is home to picturesque forests, sparkling lakes, and alpine meadows which support an amazing array of wildlife. Brown bears, lynx, wolves, red foxes, and red deer are just a few of the larger mammals that inhabit the woodlands. While in the alpine meadows found in the higher parts of the mountains, marmots can be seen and heard thanks to their high pitched alarm call. In these upper reaches, a mountain goat known as the Tatra chamois can also be found, specialised to life up high by being able to jump gaps up to 6 metres wide!
Average rating: 4.7 (very good)
Average cost: travel from Poprad to the higher reaches of the mountains costs around $20. Additional costs are needed if you want to hire a local nature guide. There are some details about tours on this website and a specific tour guiding outfit here.
Best time to visit: you can visit anytime. Although bear in mind that many mammals will be dormant or hibernating during winter. To catch a glimpse of many of these animals, it’s recommended that you visit during Spring to Autumn. During this time they are more active and a lack of snow makes it easier to navigate.
How to get there: on the Slovakian side, a series of mountain villages give you access to a wide range of hiking routes into the mountain’s higher reaches. Most of these routes can be easily accessed from Poprad. For quick access to the higher reaches of the mountains, start your hike at Hrebienok (1,300 m) by taking the hill train from Stary Smokovec.
Typical activities: hiking, trekking, wildlife watching
Number of reports: 3
Wildlife in Tatra Mountains
According to reports submitted to WildSide, the most popular species that can be seen here are:
Chamois – 33% of visitors (1/3) reported sightings
Chamois are a type of goat-like antelope native to the mountains of continental Europe. The Tatra Mountains are home to a subspecies of chamois that graze in the higher elevations of mountains on alpine meadows. While males can be seen foraging alone, females tend to herd. The Tatra chamois’ population is very small, although a hike to the mountains’ alpine meadows gives you a reasonable chance of spotting them. Hiking during Spring or Summer is likely to give you the best chance of spotting chamois grazing on the meadows.
Brown bear – 33% of visitors (1/3) reported sightings
Brown bears can be found roaming the lower stretches of the Tatra Mountain’s forests. However, during winter, the bears hibernate, meaning they are unlikely to be seen. Even at other times of the year, you’re unlikely to encounter bears unless you’re specifically looking for them. So WildSide recommends doing a guided bear tour. Several local guides are available to take you safely to spots in the forest which bears routinely visit. Check out this video of a bear sighting in the area. Reports on TripAdvisor suggest Adventoura Slovakia are worth checking out. WildSide users also recommend the Break Tracker Inn run by a local biologist who runs bear watching tours.
Lynx – 0% of visitors (0/3) reported sightings
Much like wolves and bears, lynx can also be found within the mountain’s forests. The population in Slovakia is thought to be at around 300-400 individuals. While this is a large population, lynx are elusive predators and notoriously difficult to spot in the wild. WildSide recommends contacting a local guide and tracking lynx for your best chance of spotting this amazing animal. Even with a guide, however, lynx are among the most elusive of all cats, and you’ll be extremely lucky to spot one in the wild.
Marmot – 33% of visitors (1/3) reported sightings
Marmots can be found alongside chamois in the alpine meadows found in the higher parts of the mountains. If you’re looking out for them try first listening for their unmistakably high-pitched alarm call. The cries can usually be heard coming from rocky areas or burrows in the grassy areas. They are most active during the day but hibernate during Winter. WildSide users recommend Belianske Tatray as a good place to look for marmots. There is a walk starting from Tatranska Javorina or Zdiar that leads you up into the alpine meadows where they can be found.
Red deer – 33% of visitors (1/3) reported sightings
The red deer population of the Tatra Mountains is pretty healthy. However, spotting them can be tricky due to the expanse of alpine forest. Red deer can be seen all year round but are most easily spotted during winter when they are forced to move around in search of food amongst the snowfall. Between September and November, the rut occurs as the stags lock horns to best rivals and establish themselves a harem. You are recommended to keep your distance from the testosterone pumped stags at this time. Apparently they forget to eat or sleep so no wonder they are grouchy!
Wolf – 0% of visitors (0/3) reported sightings
Wolves are known to inhabit the forests of the Tatra Mountains but are incredibly elusive and tend to avoid humans at all costs. So chances of spotting a pack of wolves in the Tatra Mountains are slim unless you opt for expert local knowledge in the form of a guide. Even then it is a challenge – and you may have better luck hearing them howling than seeing them in person. Unlike bears, wolves can be tracked all year round.
Photo credit: niki_emmert under a Creative Commons license from Pixabay