January the 17th, 2024 – Croatia is home to the brown bear, one of the country’s top predators alongside wolves and sharks. These animals can come unstuck, and that’s where Kuterevo, the bear sanctuary of Lika, comes into it.
First things first, this cuddly and rather cumbersome looking animal is in fact not that friendly and can move more quickly than you. There are around 900-1000 brown bears recorded living in Croatia, with most of them present in Lika and Gorski Kotar. That said, they can be found further south in the mountains of Mosor and Biokovo in Central Dalmatia. They have also been seen in other parts of the country, with one encounter even occurring in the hills just above Dubrovnik.
Let’s turn the clock back to 2002, and the “birth” of Kuterevo, the bear sanctuary of Lika near Otocac. Some of the furry residents of Kuterevo are from zoos, and others lost their mothers during their very vulnerable first years of life – thus requiring rescue. The bear sanctuary of Lika takes care of these poor souls, who would have perished without the protection of their mothers in the wild.
Separated into two parts – one for the youngest bears who require more care, and the other for older animals who have grown out of that stage of their lives – the Kuterevo bear sanctuary of Lika provides these animals what was robbed of them for whatever reason in their youth.
The village of Kuterevo itself numbers less than 1000 inhabitants. 30 kilometres from Senj down by the coast, close to the Velebit mountain range and around 60 kilometres from the gorgeous Plitvice Lakes National Park, it’s not far from either the coast or the continental part of Croatia.
A draw for all animal lovers, most of the visitors to Kuterevo are there to see the beautiful bears who call the bear sanctuary of Lika home. While bears continue to be persecuted in other parts of central Europe, and with even Croatia lacking in some areas when it comes to practical bear protection, Kuterevo is a safe haven for the inspiration behind the one and only Winnie the Pooh.