If you walk on the trail, the wildlife will surround you. I give you the list of those animals, which can encounter with hikers (or hikers can encounter with them) in the Hungarian forests and fields. It is a common question, whether the walk on the trail is dangerous or not because of the wildlife. I have to tell you, if you keep a few rules, which will be written in this article, you are going to hike in safe along the National Blue Trail!
The deer species are perhaps the most common animals in the forests. Generally, they move in herds, only the old male deers (stags) live lonely. They are herbivorous, so they are not dangerous for the hiker. However, if they are frightened, the herd will run across forests and fields and nothing can obstruct them in the escape. Drivers have already bad experience with escaping deer herds, which crosses the roads carelessly.
Generally, deer herds are overpopulated in the Hungarian forests, because forestry companies and hunters feed them wintertime. They are not the nutrition of other wild animals, only hunters are their enemies, but they are still human beings, I think. The number of red deer (Cervus elaphus) population reaches 100.000 in Hungary! The other species of deer, which live in Hungary, is the fallow deer (Dama dama). The number of them is about 30.000 in the country. Deer antler is perhaps the most beautiful trophy of hunters, its value is more thousand Euro if its size is big enough!
They are very common animals in the forests and fields. This species is overpopulated in Hungary, similar to deer, because of the continuous feeding by hunters. They live in smaller groups, and you have to get used the barking sound of the male roe if you spend the night in your tent among the trees. The male deer warn the herd by this loud barking, and it is very frightening to wake up to this sound in the middle of the night! Roe is herbivorous, so it is not dangerous for hikers! The antler of the male roe is much smaller than the deer antler, but it is valuable for the hunters. The estimated population is 370.000 in Hungary! You will find roes not only in the forests; they live and feed on the fields, arable lands, as well. If you walk in silence, almost sure, you will see roes every day in forests and on arable fields or meadows!
It is the most widespread hare on the Hungarian fields. It is a typical running animal, it can run with 70 km/hour speed! Its head is longer and narrower, and its body generally bigger, than the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Both species live in Hungary, but the European rabbit lives in soil cavities, the hares’ nest is located on the ground in the high undergrowth. They are herbivorous and the prey of bigger raptor birds and foxes. If you walk carefully and attentively on the dirt roads of fields, you will notice the hares in the grass. Hunters shoot approximately 100.000 hares every year, their population is broadly 400.000-500.000 pieces in Hungary!
Wild boar is the third widespread animal in the Hungarian forests, you will hear often their voice and the noise of their moving on the thick carpet of fallen leaves among the trees. Hunters feed them wintertime, so they are overpopulated and visit the nearby villages, towns often. The estimated population of wild boars is approximately 100.000 pieces in Hungary. They live in every Hungarian forest, even near settlements! Although boar is mainly herbivorous, it can be dangerous for the hikers.
Boars are social animals, they live in big families, mothers move together with their piglets. Mothers protect the piglets with full power, and it is not recommended standing between the mother and the farrows! If you glimpse small piglets on the path, turn back and walk away, because the mother is always close to the small ones! If you encounter with a grown-up boar on the path, make noise, shout or sing, generally, the loud noise frightens the boars. If the boar does not move away from the path despite the noise, slowly move back and avoid eye contact.
Although fox is predator, it is not dangerous for people. We can find only small mammals, birds and poultry of near villages in its menu. We can encounter with fox very rarely at daylight because it hunts mainly in the darkness, rather we can hear its fumble from our tent in the night. Fox was well-known a few decades ago, that it spreads rabidity, but now foxes are feed with such food (baits), which is treated with the vaccine against rabidity, so it is not a real danger recently. Almost sure, that you will encounter with red posters on trees during the hike, which tell you, baits are scattered in the forest. You must nothing to do in this case, walk farther on the path, but do not touch the baits, if you notice them on the ground!
The fox population has been growing continuously because this species can conform very easy to the changing circumstances. It is not a protected species, hunters hunt them whole year. They had shot about 70.000 foxes in 2013, so the estimated population exceeds the 120.000-150.000 pieces recently.
Wolf disappeared from Hungary at the beginning of the 20th century, but came back from the big forests of Slovakia and Croatia in the last three decades. Wolf is strictly protected in Hungary. They live in smaller groups among the northern mountains, mainly on the plateau of Bükk Mountains, and among the hills of Aggtelek, but people have already seen wolves in the Zemplén Mountains, too. They are not dangerous for the hikers, they avoid the encounter with people. We can do only one thing: do not leave scraps in the forest, either put it in the backpack or dig it into the ground, because it baits wolves in the vicinity of people. I have to tell you, there is no recorded wolf attack against human in Hungary! According to the experts two wolf packs lived in Hungary in 2019 with approximately 35-40 members.
Similar to the wolf, the golden jackal disappeared from Middle Europe at the beginning of 20th century, but in the latest decades it spreads again in Middle Europe from the Balkan Peninsula. They live in much bigger amount in Hungary, than wolves, their number is approximately 10.000-15.000 pieces. They are not dangerous for people.
According to the opinion of people, brown bears are the most dangerous wild animals in the Hungarian forests, although there is no recorded brown bear attack against people in the nature! Bears disappeared from the Hungarian forests in the second half of the 19th century and until the latest time they did not live freely in the nature. However, brown bears are wider spread in the big forests of Slovakia and Romania because of the protection, and it is a natural thing, that they visit sometimes the neighbour Hungarian forests, as well. According to the latest news, one or two bears hibernated (overwintered) here, among our northern mountains. This number is negligible if we compare it with the bears’ number in Romania (appr. 6800) or in Slovakia (appr. 2300) but undoubtedly poses a certain danger. About one dozen bear attack happen in Romania every year, so we cannot rule out the possibility here, in Hungary, but it is very unlikely.
So, what to do, if we encounter with a brown bear in the forest? The advice of the foresters of the Aggtelek National Park is the following:
I left at the end of this list those small mammals, which live in the forest everywhere, but we do not see them because of their size or their hidden life. Similar to the fox we can hear only their fumble noise, as they walk close to our tent in the silence of the night. They are mainly omnivorous, and they are looking for the scraps, which we left around the tent. I will mention only the more well-known species in the next list.
The widespread small mammals are hedgehogs (Erinaceus roumanicus), shrew mouse (Sorex araneus), and mole (Talpa europaea). Rodents are European (red) squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), forest dormouse (Dryomys nitedula), common vole (Microtus arvalis) and long-tailed field mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus). We rarely see the small predators, the hidden wild cat (Felis silvestris), lynx (Lynx lynx), fox (Vulpes vulpes), steppe polecat (Mustela eversmanni), beech marten (Martes foina), and European badger (Meles meles).
We can see many different birds along our long route on the National Blue Trail. A big part of the birds nest and live here, in the Carpathian Basin whole year and a part of them spend only a smaller period here. These birds either come from the north, to spend the winter here, or they nest here summertime and spend the winter generally in Africa. Only a little part of them, mainly eagles, roam continuously among the small European countries.
According to the latest survey, there are 373 bird species, which occur in Hungary. Of course, I do not have enough space to mention each of them here. On the other hand, the Blue Trail does not visit the lakes, bigger plains, so I will not mention the big group of water birds and the birds of the steppe of the Hungarian Plain.
It is the biggest bird of prey, which nestles in Hungary. According to the surveys 226-271 couple nested in the country in 2011-2012, the number of couples has been growing since the survey. About 500-700 eagles arrive from northern Europe in the late Autumn, they spend only the winter in the Carpathian Basin. The white-tailed eagle is a strongly protected animal in Hungary. Other eagles, for example, golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) and steppe eagle (Aquila nipalensis) do not live in Hungary, however as a migratory bird, rarely appears in the sky. Of course, every eagle is protected in Hungary.
This species is the most common raptor bird in Hungary. The common buzzard nests almost everywhere: among the mountains and plains, even on lonely trees of the fields. Almost sure, you will encounter with it during your hike! We can find small mammals and nestlings on its menu. It is a protected bird, but is perhaps causeless because about 15.000-20.000 couples nest in Hungary.
It is a typical bird of the Hungarian forests and it is a raptor similar to the eagles. The goshawk avoids the opened areas, nests and hunts in the forest. Its foods are small mammals and birds. The number of individuals exceeds the 1000 couples in Hungary.
It is a widespread raptor in Hungary, it nests even at populated places and hunts for especially smaller birds. There is a constant population in Hungary, but many individuals arrive in autumn from the northern countries. About 3300-4300 couple nest in Hungary.
The number of individuals was higher in the past century, unfortunately, their number had decreased in the last two decades of the 20th century. Their angled wing and distinctive forked tail make them easy to identify. Unlike other raptors, black kites are opportunistic hunters and are more likely to scavenge. It nests mainly on the trees of river coasts. Only 144 couples nested in Hungary in 2014, but their number has been slowly increasing in the last years.
This species is widespread in the complete European continent, only the northern countries are the exceptions. Pheasant is a well-known game bird, it lives and feeds on the ground and does not like to fly. Its favourite places are the bushy fields, where it can live its hidden life. While common pheasants are able to do short-distance flights, they prefer to run. If startled however, they can suddenly burst upwards at great speed, with a distinctive “whirring” wing sound and often giving “kok kok kok” calls to alert conspecifics. Pheasant has a big population in Hungary, it reaches the 400.000 pieces.
It is a medium-sized woodpecker with pied black and white plumage and a red patch on the lower belly. This species is widespread in the Hungarian forests, you will hear often its knocking on the trees. It is a protected bird.
It is the most widespread owl species in Hungary. A part of them nests continuously in the country, but the population increases every autumn because many owls arrive from the northern part of Europe and spend the winter here. It is a raptor bird, it hunts small mammals, wintertime they make bigger groups, sitting on the branches of the trees. Its population is about 6500-12.000 couples, it depends on the season.
It is a migratory bird, it lives in Hungary between April and October and spends the winter in Africa. Cuckoos are well-known as a brood parasite, which means it lays eggs in the nests of other bird species, particularly of dunnocks, meadow pipits, and reed warblers. You will hear often its typical voice in the forest during your hike.
Although white stork do not live in the forest, I have to write about it, because it is widespread in Hungary and you will encounter with storks in almost every village. People make artificial nests ( many time they are only frames) onto the top of lampposts or chimneys and generally, they are inhabited between April and September. Stork is a migratory bird, it spends the winter in Africa. Although the most stork nests in populated places, they hunt for small fishes, mammals and amphibians in the shallow lakes and marsh. According to a survey, which happened in 2005, 5000 couples nested in that time in Hungary, but theire number has been increasing continuously because of the protection.
If you ask for my opinion, ticks are the most dangerous animals not only in Hungary but in whole Europe! Ticks are small insects, parasites, living on the blood of mammals and birds. Ticks like the warm, humid climate and unfortunately, the climatic change has made good environs for these small parasites in Hungary. They cannot stand the cool winters; they die almost immediately under -18 degree Celsius and can survive the temperatures between -2 and -7 degree Celsius only for two weeks. If the winter is not cool enough, they can overwinter among the fallen leaves and begin the reproduction immediately in the spring months. A cool winter can decrease their number for long years.
It is one thing that they live on our blood, but they can distribute different diseases, and this fact is the main hazard! Ticks can distribute three diseases; they are the Lyme-disease, the tick-borne encephalitis and the Colorado fever. According to the statistics, 1124 Lyme disease and 53 tick-borne encephalitis infections happened in Hungary in 2013, the Colorado fever has appeared only a few years ago in Europe, and there are no infected people by this disease in Hungary.
After the infection, the first sign of the Lyme disease appears on the body on that place, where the stick bit the skin. Usually, it is a palm-sized red patch or circle around the place of the bite. A few days later this red colour disappears and the germ of Lyme disease can incubate for a long time in the human body. The latter serious symptoms appear only years after the infection. These symptoms are various, in many cases, doctors cannot specify the disease and the treatment of the patient will go on the wrong way. There is no vaccination against Lyme disease, you have to watch your body regularly. If you notice the red patch on your skin, you can continue the hike and finish it perhaps many weeks later, but if you travel home, immediately go to the doctor, and told him/her, you are infected with Lyme disease! The doctor will order the appropriate cure to kill the germs of the disease!
The incubation period of the tick-borne encephalitis (TBD) is usually 7-14 days, the symptoms are nonspecific and may include fever, malaise, anorexia, muscle aches, headache, nausea, and/or vomiting. In general, mortality is rare, about 1-2%, with deaths occurring 5 to 7 days after the onset of neurologic signs in European TBE. There is vaccination against TBD, it is necessary if you want to hike in the forests of Hungary! It is recommended the usage of tick repellent spray continuously during the hike!
There are more thousand insect species in Hungary, I will mention only those species in the next rows, which are widespread and the encounter is almost sure with them along the National Blue Trail. I have written already about ticks above because they are the most dangerous insects in Hungary, let see the others now!
I think the most irritating species of the insects are the mosquitoes. Approximately 50 different sub-species are widespread in Hungary, they are all bloodsucking, but do not distribute diseases yet. They are only very irritating. The most widespread species are Anopheles maculipennis, Theobaldia annulata and Culex pipiens. In the latest time African mosquitoes appeared in Hungary, the reason is probably the global warming and trading. They were investigated in different labs, but they were not infected with diseases. It is recommended to use a mosquito repellent spray during the hike, but the best is if your spray is a combined tick/mosquito repellent!
The flies are widespread in Hungary, similar to the mosquitoes, and they can be very irritating, as well. If you finish the meal, pack the rest immediately to closed place into bags or boxes, because flies will find it in seconds. Flies can distribute different diseases, the germs are mainly on their legs. It is a common thing, that flies eat everything, even the animals’ excrements, so be careful! Generally, the tick/mosquito repellent sprays are ineffective against flies.
Ants are widespread in Hungary, as well. The red wood ant or horse ant (Formica rufa) is the most widespread species in the forests, we can encounter with it almost everywhere. Hikers can see often the dome-shaped nests among the trees. Ants can find easily the rest or crumbs of our food even in the tents, as well. Besides the red wood ant can be found the black ant (lasius niger), and the pavement ant or sugar ant (Solenopsis fugax).
Only two species of venomous snakes live in Hungary, both of them are viper. Crossed viper (Vipera berus) (also known as the common adder, common viper) is well known in the whole Europe, we can meet with it almost everywhere: in forests, on meadows and arable fields, even at the shores of lakes, streams. Most likely, we will encounter with them in the Zemplén Mountains on the route of the Blue Trail.
Its length does not exceed the 80 cm, so it belongs among the smaller snakes. Generally, crossed viper hibernates itself during the long winter months, hikers can encounter with them between March and November. Its favourite activity is to lie on the sunshine to warm up its body on the cold mornings. Usually, its bite is not lethal, but if the symptoms are serious, you must call help. The symptoms of the bite are nausea and dizziness. The appearance of vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea and fainting already warrant hospitalization.
The other viper species, which live in Hungary, is the “parlagi vipera” (Vipera ursinii rakosiensis, I did not found its English name). Its living places are fields and meadows, and we cannot encounter with this species on the route of the National Blue Trail. Its length is only 40-50 cm and its bite is less dangerous than the bite of a crossed viper.
Snakebites are rare in Hungary, usually, at most 4-5 cases happen every year in the nature. Ten times as many cases occur in terrariums by other species of snakes!Vipers eat small mammals, such as mice, rats, voles, sometimes frogs and salamanders. Adders are not usually aggressive, tending to be rather timid and biting only when cornered or alarmed. People are generally bitten only after stepping on them or attempting to pick them up.
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