Over the course of centuries, the original fauna of this territory has undergone numerous and significant changes: during long ice ages, typically nordic animals migrated southward to these areas to settle. Subsequent climatic and environmental changes and the overall increase in temperature led to the disappearance of some species, while other succeeded in adapting to new conditions. The variations resulting from this gradual adaptation to the new climate determined a differentiation of some characteristics of these animals compared to their ancestors. In this way, some of the most important and precious examples of nordic fauna managed to survive in these high and isolated forested environs, especially but not exclusively in the Abruzzo National Park, comprising a wildlife treasure of great scientific and naturalistic interest as well as a tourist attraction.
This small stretch of the Apennines offers incredible observation opportunities: today it is the realm of numerous animal species, like the Abruzzo or Apennine chamois, a subspecies of the chamois that inhabits the Pyrenees yet different from the species that lives in the Alps, that today numbers about 700 specimens. Large and with it unmistakable coat, this is the easiest animal to come across, especially in the Camosciara, in Val di Rose, and on Mount Amaro in the Abruzzo National Park, but also on Gran Sasso and the Majella, following a series of reintroductions to these areas.
In contrast to the chamois, the Apennine wolf is the eternal wanderer of the Apennines, making it particularly difficult to catch a glimpse of one. Persecuted for centuries and at risk of extinction, this predator is not enjoying a comeback on all of the massifs of Abruzzo, from the Majella to the Gran Sasso and the Sirente, but the most important colony of wolves (numbering over one hundred individuals) has settled on the mountains of the Park of Abruzzo, Lazio, and Molise.
Although rare, it is possible to meet the Marsica brown bear, the symbol of this region: today it is believed that they number between 50 and 80, mostly in the Abruzzo National Park, with smaller nuclei wandering around the Majella, on the Sirente, and perhaps on the Simbruini and Gran Sasso.
Other large mammals include deer and roe deer, even though they are less common than in the Alps, and boar, which were introduced for hunting. However, the thick beech woods, the pastures, and meadows are likely spots for encountering the numerous species of small mammals living in this region: from extremely rare lynx to more common animals like the fox, wildcats, martens, beech martens, hedgehogs, hares, badgers, dormice, weasels, harvest mice, and southern squirrels.
The clearer rivers of the Majella massif are home to a few rare otters, raised for research and reintroduced into the WWF oasis of Lake Penne.
A true treasure chest of wildlife, Abruzzo also hosts countless species of reptiles, like the Orsini viper, the common viper, the grass snake and four-lined snake, and amphibians, including the Italian newt, the yellow-bellied toad, the emerald toad, the rare spectacled salamander, and the fire salamander. During the spring and summer on the Majella massif, there is a blooming of butterflies with nearly all the Italian diurnal species – 116 out of 131 - and nocturnal species accounted for. Indigenous insects in this region include the Polydrusus lucianae beetle in the beech woods and the Italopodisma lucianae orthopteran in the high altitude meadows.
Abruzzo is brimming with surprises for bird watching aficionados as well. No matter where you look, from the sea to the mountains, from swampy zones to woodlands, the list of species to be found seem almost infinite: birds of prey, like buzzards, kites, harriers, falcons, long-eared owls, brown owls, owlets, ravens, choughs – and of course, the golden eagle - , herons, water birds, and other birds that inhabit swamps and coastal lands, passerines, woodpeckers…
Last but not least, there is the sea: in the Adriatic, along the coast of Abruzzo, it is possible to see cetaceans, like the bottlenose dolphin, the striped dolphin, and the common dolphin.
Bears of Abruzzo