Pollino animals: the fauna of Italy’s largest national park.

Pollino animals: the fauna of Italy's largest national park.

The National Park between the two seas

A treasure trove of inexhaustible beauty and biodiversity that led it to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015. From a fauna point of view, the Pollino area (internationally known as Pollino Global Geopark) is one of the most important in the whole of southern Italy. In addition to the variety of environments, the geographical position allows a high richness of species and zoological peculiarities.

In this protected area, the relationship between man and nature has been very deep for many centuries, the result of a bond born thanks to the mountain populations that have made this environment their home without changing its structure.

As you wander through the dense vegetation, you may come across pleasant encounters…

Pollino animals: the fauna of Italy's largest national park.

Looking upwards: inhabitants of the heavens.

As you walk along these paths, framed by a rich beech forest, you are sure to look up and follow the trunks trying to catch a glimpse of the summit.

There is a true giant of the skies in the clouds, which with its wingspan of almost 2 metres soars to very high altitudes. It is the majestic golden eagle, the undisputed queen of these skies.

Closer to our view we can find the little sparrowhawk with its rounded wings, thanks to which it can fly through the dense bush. A master of agility and elegance.

During a hike it is easy to come across circular marks on the stumps. These are the result of the constant work of the red-cockaded woodpecker. Unlike other similar woodpecker species, it does not use the classic “drumming” to mark out its territory. Its beak, which is less sharp and powerful than that of its “cousins”, is also more often used to catch insects than to dig the classic holes in trees.

These three are just a few examples of birds that can be found in the park. The possible itineraries offer an immense wealth of possibilities for birdwatchers and nature lovers.

Pollino animals: the fauna of Italy's largest national park.

In the shade of a beech wood and among the valleys.

The undergrowth is home to a diverse fauna composed mainly of small mammals. It is very easy to come across foxes, the animal with the least risk of rarefaction as it is very common from the basal plain to the high mountains, able to adapt to any environment, even going as far as the city, while it will be rare to come across the very rare wild cats that still survive in some restricted areas (don’t be fooled by the resemblance to their cousins the domestic cats, they are even more wary!). The hedgehog, the only insectivore to hibernate, and the porcupine, Italy’s largest rodent, are both interesting and friendly. The only thing the two species have in common is their spines, which are much shorter in the former.

In some Pollino rivers the elusive otter survives, belonging to the Mustelidae family, which also includes weasels, beech-martens, badgers and martens: all species present in the woods and countryside of the Park according to their environmental needs. The presence of the otter is exceptional, as it is firmly linked to clean river environments.

Among the small mammals we can mention the black squirrel from the south, and the driomio small rodent thought to be absent on the Pollino until a few years ago, the sleepy dormouse.

There is an increased presence of wild boars, due to the reintroductions carried out by hunting associations with breeding specimens before the closure of hunting.

Pollino animals: the fauna of Italy's largest national park.

Difficult to see, but wildlife symbols of the Park.

Encountering them on a snowshoe hike is rare, but they represent two of the most iconic species that inhabit these mountains, each separated from the other by different positions in the food chain.

Among the predators, the most important is undoubtedly the wolf, hunted by man for years and now a protected species. In the wildest areas of the Park it has found an important refuge, surviving the lack of food, consisting mainly of deer and roe deer, taking advantage of rubbish dumps and stealing lambs and kids from shepherds.

Mountaineering enthusiasts, on one of the many paths leading to the peaks, may encounter the Apennine roe deer, which survives in few specimens in the Park and represents, together with those of Gargano and Castelporziano, the survivors of the “Italica” subspecies. The latter is part of the population that existed in peninsular Italy before the massive extinction caused by human intervention and then replaced by repopulations with roe deer from northern Europe.

Immense riches are just waiting to be discovered so that you can get back in touch with the unspoilt nature of Italy’s largest park and one of the largest in Europe.

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