Italy Mammal Watching

Hello Mammal Watchers,

I am planning a vacation around Naples, Italy and want to spend a few days Mammal Watching in Abruzzo, with hopes to see a Marsican Brown Bear (would also look forother mammals including and not limited to  Wolves, Chamois, Dormice and Otters).

For those of you who have been there – are guided tours necessary or of any benefit?

I read from trip reports that Gioia Vecchio is a popular place to search for bears, is it also good for the beginning of August or is it only recommended for spring?

Any other tips for Marsican Brown Bears or other mammals?

 

Thanks!

6 Comments
  1. Francesco 6 months ago

    Hello Yuval,
    I’ve been a couple of times there in July/august. There are several good places (rifugio di iorio, forca resuni, passo dei monaci) where the landscape allows scoping for mammals.
    I haven’t seen bears/wolves but scats are all over. I would recommend to contact one of the experienced guides – Pietro Santucci or the managers of “rifugio terraegna“. It will increase drastically your chances.

    Best,
    Francesco

  2. Michaël Dagnelie 5 months ago

    Hey,

    I’m visiting the Abruzzo region at the moment. I already saw bears, wolves, porcupines, fat/edible dormice, chamois and many of the birds. I will give more details when I get back to the Netherlands in one week.

    Kind regards,

    Michaël

    • Author
      Yuval Tamir 5 months ago

      Hey Michaël,
      I would love to contact you for more information!
      My email is yuvaltam11@gmail.com, I’d love to ask some questions.

    • Author
      Yuval Tamir 5 months ago

      Hey Michaël,
      would love to hear back from you about Abruzzo and places to see all the mammals you’ve seen.
      yuvaltam11@gmail.com

      • Michaël Dagnelie 5 months ago

        Hey,

        Sorry for the late reply, I’ve been very busy since I got back. Here’s a summary:

        I spent nine full days in Abruzzo. It was part of a bigger two-month trip cycling, bird migration counting, doing part of GR20 and searching for animals at the Po-delta, Corsica and Central-Italy. I did everything by bicycle and train. I came to Abruzzo by bike from Roccasecca, there’s a train station. I also took the train back from Roccasecca to Rome and Tarquinia (to search for spectacled warbler).

        At Abruzzo, many times I slept (a bit) during the day, because the nights were very short or non-existent. There I saw: bears, wolves, porcupines, fat/edible dormice, grey long-eared bat (in a small building on the way to Abruzzo), corsican hare (probably, but I would have to check the literature and my pictures, since I didn’t find the Stuart’s mammals app alone very helpful regarding more difficult families), european hare (probably), european badger, red squirl (a black one), wild boar, fox (one bit a hole in my tent, next to where the food was), red deer, roe deer. Most notable birds I saw: white-backed ‘lilford’s’ woodpecker, collared flycatcher, bonelli’s warbler, short-toed snake-eagle, golden eagle, griffon vulture, rock partridge, common/red-tailed rock thrush, alpine accentor, white-winged snowfinch, red-billed and alpine chough, wryneck, lesser spotted woodpecker, etc. I also searched for reptiles and amphibians. However, I didn’t see many besides an unidentified snake, a few western green lizards (and many common and italian wall lizards), all on the bike on the way to Abruzzo. For these and other observations (Abruzzo was between 13-6-2022 and 24-6-2022), see:

        https://observation.org/users/6959/observations/?date_after=2020-12-31&date_before=2022-12-31&species_group=2&page=1

        You’ve already heard about the famous bear-spot Goia Vecchio. Unfortunately, two locals told me Goia Vecchio is not as good for bears as it used to be. They said this spring there have been few sightings there. The reasons the locals gave where disturbance and higher vegetation (but that could also mean they are just harder to find). However, I did see a bear there, but apparently I was very lucky. The bear I saw there was quite close. But I only saw it for a few seconds, since it was hunted by two white dogs (I later met the apparent owner of the dogs and he thought it was funny), so I understand disturbance as a factor. One of the locals tipped me that the more remote Cicerana was better for bears, it’s also the place where Ecoturs do their ‘weekends with the bears’ (they sleep in the Rifugio della Cicerana). After that, I decided to dedicate much of my time to this place. You go there from Rifugio Passo del Diavolo, from a small parking place you have to walk to the spot, near the refuge. The idea here is that you have a good overview and then scan the surrounding mountains. It took me some time to find a good spot. I found this to be the place with the best overview:

        https://observation.org/observation/246590061/

        Note that everything is quite far and a good spotting scope is highly recommended and probably essential to have the best chances/views. The scanning is hard working though and the succes rate was not very high, but maybe my expectations were too high. Also, the time of the year was not the best. It should be better in late summer/beginning of the autum, when the bears search for berries on the mountain slopes. During 4 mornings + 4 evenings there I saw bears on two occasions (one (terrible view) and two (very nice views, with video’s through the scope) bears respectively) and wolves on two occasions (one and two respectively). One wolf I encountered when it was still dark at probably less than 10 meters! We were both very surprised/shocked and it quickly disappeared, leaving me with lots of adrenaline. For me it’s impossible to know what the outcome would have been if I had invested the time at Gioia Vecchio instead. After all, I did see a bear there. Birds I saw at Cicerana were: white-backed ‘lilford’s’ woodpecker, lots of collared flycatchers and bonelli’s warblers, short-toed snake-eagle, golden eagle, wryneck, lesser spotted woodpecker, etc. I also saw multiple hares and at least one probable corsican hare.

        I did everything independently, but you can also go there with a tour and sleep at the eco lodge. During high season apparently there’s a tour everyday, I only met one tour though. They did more or less the same as me, but they missed the two bears I had just seen (they were standing at a place with a less good overview). They also arrived later and left earlier than me, not maximizing chances. It probably depends on the guide though, at least it’s way more convenient to stay and sleep at the lodge. However, if you know the spot I think your best friend is a good spotting scope!

        The most notable other place at Abruzzo I went to was Val di rose, for the Abruzzo chamois (easy). From there I hiked further up to the Monte Petroso peak. I left very late, so I was at the peak during the evening. But this might have been a good thing, since I saw some great birds there, most notably: rock partridge, common/red-tailed rock thrush, alpine accentor, white-winged snowfinch, griffon vultures and golden eagle (both very close), red-billed and alpine chough, all around the peak. Also, on the way back in the forests below Val di Rose, I heard many fat/edible dormice and also had a few very short views of them. I also saw two crested porcupines there very close on the way back, close to Civitella Alfedena and my bike. However, it is never recommended to walk in the mountains during the night (especially alone). If you do, really check the weather forecasts and make sure you have good head lights/torches, with (multiple) spare batteries. Alternatively, you can stay at the refuge Forca Resuni. It wasn’t open yet (no high season, apparently), but you can always use it as a shelter. There are a few beds, with mattresses, so you only need to bring a sleeping bag and your own water/food and you can sleep there, for free (low season). During high season, the hut will probably be open and things will be different though.

        By the way, crested porcupines in central Italy were way easier than I thought, I saw them at three different areas in Italy (eight individuals in total) and two places in Abruzzo (five individuals). Just go out at night around villages with a headlamp and a torch. Multiple times they came very close to me. Around Tarquinia I camped next to one individual. I saw them always during the night, except for one occassion, where I had stunning views during the morning:

        https://observation.org/observation/246765236/

        Hope this helps. Kind regards,

        Michaël

  3. Jurek 5 months ago

    Hi,
    I was there several years ago over the weekend. I saw a flock of chamois along the hiking trail at Val di Roso, and distant brown bears twice over 3 evenings from a viewpoint Gioia Vecchio along the side of a village. Basically no guide was needed for these. I walked close to that place during the day and saw many upturned stones, so bears should be viewable closer by in the evenings / mornings. I driven local roads at night for porcupines but saw only a family of Red Foxes. I did not search for small mammals or bats.

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