Italy’s Endemics – Apennine Wolf, Marsican Bear, Apennine Chamois and more

T R I P    O V E R V I E W

I have undertaken trips every summer and autumn since 2017 to the Abruzzo-Lazio-Molise region of central Italy, combing the mountains and valleys to photograph and observe fascinating behaviours of its special endemic mammals: 

  • Marsican Bear – a small subspecies of European Brown Bear, with honey-coloured tints to its fur. <60 left in a small area of Italy. Easy to see at distance from a few touristic spots, but requires good knowledge of area to get repeat quality encounters and to observe rare behaviours.
  • Italian/Apennine Wolf – a small subspecies of Grey Wolf. Possible to stumble upon, but requires good knowledge of area to observe the packs and hunting/family behaviours.
  • Apennine Chamois – a delightful mountain antelope, easy to find in a few areas of the Abruzzo
  • Additional mammals such as Etruscan Porcupine, Apennine Hare, Calabrian Squirrel (very difficult), Wild Boar, Red Deer rutting 

Most tours can almost guarantee a brief or distant sighting of two if not all three of these key species, but that’s not enough for me! Since my first trip in 2017, teaming up with a couple of Italian biologists, I’ve observed at least 15 different bears, including the famous Amarena who mothered four cubs back in 2020 and her grandmother Gemma; and many sightings of wolf packs hunting deer and boar.

September/October 2023 was one of my most productive visits to date. I stayed in Villalago, in the Majella National Park on the edge of the Abruzzo, a picturesque medieval village tucked away in a valley. It’s a relatively unknown area, even among Italians, yet a fabulous place for wildlife and culture. Red Deer were rutting alongside the crystal-clear streams. I kept an eye on tired stags, as these made easy targets for watching Apennine Wolves, which had just emerged from their dens with their cubs. Marsican Bears could be seen coming down to apple and plum trees in orchards around the villages, usually one or two with their cubs. They were almost like clockwork, once an estimated guess as to where they’d have spent the night had been made. 

I also spent a few nights at a refuge in Sirente Velino Regional Park, where Wolves and Golden Eagles were on my doorstep. This was a true immersion in the realm of the wolf, but in relative comfort with a chef on site to prepare meals, and running water/electricity/wifi. The nests of Golden Eagles and Griffon Vultures could be viewed just above the refuge. I now know four separate wolf packs in this area, and so every morning sightings of family behaviours (cubs hunting) were virtually guaranteed. 

I am going to return this autumn, should anyone be interested in joining me.

Post author

Paul Collins

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