I basically had April 3rd and 4th to look for Tatra Chamois and other wildlife in Slovakias highest mountains. What can I say: it worked!

The Tatra Mountains are situated on the border of Slovakia and Poland between the Alps and the Carpathians. Map Source: OpenTopoMap

I come with my own car from Germany, enter Slovakia and the area via the E50, and leave that highway at exit „Lipt. Hrádok“. I then follow the 537. This road climbs up the slope and then runs at an elevation of about 1000 m asl around the south side of the Tatras. The area is quite touristy – with three million visitors per year. There are several villages and hotels on the way. But in between there are enough open places and lookouts to look for wildlife.

Millions of trees were destroyed in the 2004-storm. They provide good habitat and shelter for birds and mammals – if they are not harvested …

In 2004 a hundred-year storm destroyed large tracts of forests, which created lots of open places, which makes it even easier to watch wildlife – theoretically. On the east side of the High Tatras the 537 meets the 66 which runs north and within 30 minutes you are in Poland and on the north side of the Tatras Mountains.

I spend the whole day on these roads, stop at every suitable spot and scan the landscape with my binoculars. The result: nothing – except at 7.30 pm I see my first 4 Tatra Chamois high up on a Mountain Peak. I am a bit disappointed by the course of the day, but full of confidence for the next day, because I now know, where to look for my chamois.

Even though it’s spring, the chamois are high up in the mountains.

Low Tatras with their more hilly character: Photo taken with a 800 mm lens from the High Tatras.

I have not booked anything and need four! attempts to find a hotel. I check in at Granit Hotel, Tatranske Zruby, just west of the main village Vysoké Tatry. Its 37 Euros the night and 1,50 Euro for a bear – I take two. Good sleep.

The next morning I choose the trail opposite the hotel towards Sliezsky Dom, a two hour hike into the alpine area. There is still snow on the trail and I soon find my first wolf tracks, followed by those of a Red Deer.

Wolf track. Ring diameter: 2 cm

I enjoy the hike very much after the long driving and soon arrive below some southwest-facing cliffs close to the Dom – actually a big hotel right in the heart of the nationalpark (shame!).

Three million people visit Tatra National Park each year. Instead of mountain huts, national park authorities allow to build multistory buildings (this one: Sliezsky Dom) right in the core area of the national park. Some authors write that Chamois do suffer, but population numbers have actually risen in recent years.

I talk to a man who offers me to talk Russian with him. I have to pass, but I do understand, that there are 7 chamois in the cliff north of Sliezsky Dom, and around 15 to the east. I decide for the east side and eventually discover 5 different animals. Two of them I approach as far as I can, which is not so easy because of the kneedeep snow.

Tatra chamois are said to avoid forests and even areas with dwarf pine.

There is some debate if it is possible to distinguish between Tatra Chamois and Alpine or Carpathian Chamois. In the field I don’t think it is possible.

Female Tatra Chamois: Horns are thinner.

Great animals! All my findings concerning Tatra Chamois you find here.

At around 1.30 pm I leave the area to reach my car at around 3 pm, that I have safely parked near my hotel. On the way out I discover a fox on the roadside, who gives me great looks.

A rather tame fox on the roadside

Just after I have entered highway E50 again, I see something else from the corner of my eye. I know right away what it is, but I have to slow down the car first and find a save spot on the hard shoulder, before I can concentrate on my new mammal: a wolf.

Great sighting: a wolf on a bare field in broad daylight

He comes straight towards the highway, but is not able to cross it, because of the fence. As soon as he detects me, he turns and trots the way he came. I feel sorry for this guy, since he can not go, where he wants, but I am also thankful for the great looks I get.

Slovakia mammal list – species seen on April 3rd and 4th, 2018

Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus) around 200; gathering in groups of up to 30 on the still bare fields along the roads all over Northern Slovakia along E50
Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) 3 females east of Ružomberok – I think it was this town
Tatra Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra tatrica) 9 animals in total 4 on a peak west of Vysoké Tatry; 5 at Sliezsky Dom
Fox (Vulpes vulpes) 1 very tame animal north of Pribylina, within national park boundries
Wolf (Canis lupus) 1, presumably a male close to exit „Lipt. Hrádok“ on E50
Hare (Lepus europaeus) single animals; 3 in total close to the road between Trenčín and Brno (Czech Republic)