You’re most likely to hear a wolf baying in the late winter/early spring and a pawprint in snow or mud – or even the remains of its prey (usually wild boars or deer) can make you aware of its presence. But an actual sighting is down to chance – a fleeting glimpse of a wolf through trees is just as likely as seeing one strolling across a forest path in broad daylight.
The Marsican Brown Bear is even more elusive. About fifty are thought to range across Abruzzo’s three great National Parks, with around a dozen in the Majella. Sad to report, these beautiful animals are still persecuted and two have been shot and killed by poachers in the Gran Sasso National Park in recent months.
The Museo dell’Orso in Palena – about a 35-minute drive from Villasfor2 – provides an excellent introduction to the Marsican Bear and by arrangement you can also go on hikes along known bear trails in the area.
The Museum’s opening times are variable. Its contact details are on its website and it’s advisable to plan ahead.
The bear and the wolf are creatures of the forest. Not so the Abruzzo Chamois, which inhabits the Majella’s mountain areas. Hunted to extinction in the area early in the 19th century, the chamois was reintroduced to the Majella at around the time it achieved National Park status in 1995 and has since thrived.
You’re likeliest to get a sighting of chamois in areas of shrubby scree that provide grazing – and you’re likely to get a sighting of their incredible agility if you get what they consider to be too close !
Here, in addition to a natural history museum, you’ll also find a specially-created habitat for one of the Park’s most captivating animals – the otter. The Centre runs occasional twilight viewing walks throughout the year. Check when they’re scheduled by first calling (+39) 085 922343.
You won’t find any of these animals outside the Majella. But there’s one you will. The wild boar, or cinghiale. Inside the Parks, it’s the chief prey animal of the wolf – some estimates reckon wild boars make-up 70% of wolf kills. Outside the Parks, the boar is hunted – legally – also as a source of food.
They’re widespread throughout the region and though not often seen unless deliberately flushed-out by hunters, you can often spot a wild boar’s passage through woodland and forest. It’s not the most careful of travellers or feeders and leaves a wide and obvious tell-tale track.
We’re incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful natural Abruzzo resource as the Majella National Park so close-by. There are numerous well-run visitor centres circling the Park – our nearest are close-by at Fara San Martino and Guardiagrele – where you’ll find a fantastic range of free guides and brochures and expert help to you enjoy the Park to the full.
To whet your appetite, the Majella National Park has its own excellent website in English, French and German in addition to Italian. Incidentally – don’t skip the Intro, it has some great animation and sound effects !