Today Slovenia is one of the rare countries in Europe with stabile and one of the most vital brown bear population with an expanding habitat and strongly increasing numerically. The Slovenian brown bear population is very important for the re-introduction of brown bear in Italy, Austria and France.
But this was not always so. The brown bear was very common in Slovenia until 18th century. But, reduction of woodlands, intensive agriculture, extensive hunting and the systematic human interference with all three large predator species drastically reduced the population. The number of bears declined the most in level areas suitable for farming. The management and protection of the brown bear population in Slovenia began in the 19th century.
At the beginning of the twentieth century there were only 30 to 40 brown bears in Slovenia. It was only in the second half of the previous century that their number began increasing due to environmental management and orientation. It is estimated that there are currently 500 to 700 brown bears living in Slovenia. The brown bear can be most frequently found in fir and beech forests of higher Karst at an altitude from 400 to 1200 meters. The Slovenian Dinaric population is the westernmost part of brown bear habitat in Central Europe. The largest Slovenian population of the brown bear is found in the forests of the Kočevje, Bela krajina and Notranjska regions. In a 3000 km2 of dense forest of the higher bear population survived due to appropriate natural environment and man’s sympathy for this species.
An average Slovenian brown bear usually weighs between 100 and 150 kilograms; is omnivorous: plant food amounts to 70% to 85% of his diet, while meat merely 15% to 30% throughout the year, and hunts only occasionally. Despite its clumsy and slow appearance the bear is a great traveller, often covering tens of kilometres per day, a good runner, and fast swimmer. Younger bears are also good climbers. From November to March bears are less active, as this is the hibernation period. In the wild, they can live from 15 to 25 years. Bears are solitary animals. A male bear is not involved in the upbringing of the young cubs.
The bear’s senses of smell and hearing are exceptionally well developed, although its eyesight is relatively poor. For this reason it is extremely difficult to surprise it or approach it unnoticed. The bear hunts only occasionally and does not consider humans as a potential prey, so it never stalks on people with an intention or to hunt them. In an encounter with a human being the bear feels, above all, threatened and tends to withdraw from the situation as soon as possible. We can say that in their encounter the man and the bear feel pretty much the same.
Slovenian proverbs and sayings about bears:
Močan kot medved. – To be as strong as a bear.
Hodi kot medved. – He walks like a bear.
Zaščiten kot medved. – To be protected as a bear.
Medvedje obnašanje. – Bear behaviour.
Medvedja usluga. – A bear’s favour (a favour that does more harm than good)
Medved – močan, dobrodušen človek. – He is a bear – he is a strong, good-hearted person.
Tristo kosmatih medvedov, kako si trmast! – Three hundred hairy bears, you are so stubborn!
Ne prodajaj kože, dokler je medved še v brlogu. – Don’t sell the skin while the bear is still in its den.
Piti na medvedovo kožo, čeprav je medved še v gozdu. – To toast a bear’s skin while the bear is still in the forest.