Large carnivores – bear, wolf and lynx – are an important component of Croatia's biodiversity and a natural wealth which needs to be preserved. Their conservation is a complex task for which Croatia is making intense efforts, in particular for the most challenging aspect – the relations with people. From the biological aspect, bear and wolf populations can be considered stable, while the lynx population is declining.
Estimates on the wolf population in Croatia are in a range from 162 to 234 individuals, i.e. an average of 200 divided into 50 packs. Considering the fact that a certain number of packs roam on either side of the border, or rather spend one part of the year in the country and the other part outside Croatia (in Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina sharing a long border with Croatia), there are 24 border packs (48%) and 26 packs throughout nine Croatian counties. The lynx population is estimated in a range from 40 to 60 individuals, while the bear population is considered to range from 600 to 1,000 individuals.
Large carnivore management plans are documents which offer guidelines for the species conservation for an as harmonious as possible coexistence with people. The first management plans were adopted in 2004 and they have been revised every five years. These plans underline the formulation of action plans with specific activities and institutions in charge of their implementation. Two government bodies are responsible for large carnivore conservation, management and administration in Croatia. The Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection, Directorate for Protection of Nature is in charge of the wolf and lynx species, while the Ministry of Agriculture, Directorate for Hunting is in charge of the bear.
The State Institute for Nature Protection is an institution centrally responsible for specialized nature protection activities, and is in charge of monitoring wolf and lynx populations in collaboration with the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Zagreb. Apart from supporting telemetric studies of the wolf and the lynx, the Institute organizes snow tracking actions and processes results, collects data on livestock number in the wolf and lynx distribution area. It records and analyses damage caused by them and prepares their population status annual reports. Furthermore, the Institute organizes and implements donation programs for livestock guardian dogs and electric fences; it organizes professional improvement of court appointed experts and public education. At the same time it coordinates formulation and revision of wolf and lynx management plans.
Habitats fragmentation and degradation are currently, apart from illegal killing, the major threat to large carnivores. Croatia shares large carnivore populations with its neighbouring countries, which makes cross-border cooperation in management and administration vitally important for ensuring the survival of these animals on the long term. The cooperation with Slovenia already exists, while the cooperation with Bosnia and Herzegovina will be fostered in the future.