The brown bear (Ursus arctos) survives in Montenegro in small numbers (estimated at some 125 individuals in 2000). Not surprisingly, its distribution is limited mostly to the remotest mountain areas of the north and east. Encounters between humans and bears are very rare. The grey wolf (Canis lupus) is also said to inhabit some of the more remote mountain areas, but again, sightings are rare.
Since its reappearance in the 1960s–70s, there have been scattered sightings of the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), although it is established in greater numbers over the Albanian border. Unfortunately, the population of this rare mammal appears to be in decline in the Balkans. Other mammals include wild boar (Sus scrofa), red deer (Cervus elaphus), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra), pine martin (Martes martes), forest dormouse (Dryomys nitedula) and common dormouse (Glis glis).
Reptiles and amphibians
The nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes), known locally as poskok, is found in the Dinaric Alps, including Montenegro. Its venom is highly poisonous. Adult specimens are typically less than 60cm in length, but may sometimes grow to 90cm. A subspecies found in Montenegro (Vipera ammodytes meridionalis) is smaller. Nose-horned vipers are either light grey or brownish copper, with a dark black zigzag pattern along the back, and are recognizable by the prominent soft horn at the end of their snout.
They prefer dry, rocky hillsides, but may also be found under low bushes or around dry stone walls, and even on rock faces. The common viper, or adder (Vipera berus), known locally as šarka or šarulja, is also found, together with the subspecies Vipera berus bosniensis. (It is perhaps worth mentioning that both the nose-horned Viper and the common viper also occur in other, more frequently visited parts of Europe. For example, the former is found in northern Italy, while the latter is also found in the UK.) Another species of viper, Orsini’s viper (Vipera ursinii), is considerably more docile. Other species of snake include the large whip snake (Coluber caspius), Balkan whip snake (Coluber gemonensis), Dahl’s whip snake (Coluber najadum) and the cat snake (Telescopus fallax). A number of lizards are common, including the Balkan green lizard (Lacerta trilineata), which grows up to 40cm in length, green lizard (Lacerta viridis), Mosor rock lizard (Lacerta mosorensis), Balkan wall lizard (Podarcis taurica), Dalmatian algyroides (Algyroides nigropunctatus), sharp-snouted rock lizard (Lacerta oxycephala) and Turkish gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus). The alpine newt (Triturus alpestris) is found in lakes in the Montenegrin highlands, including an endemic subspecies (Triturus alpestris serdarus), the distribution of which is limited to Zminičko jezero, a lake on the northern flanks of Sinjajevina. A subspecies of alpine salamander (Salamandra atra prenjensis) is found along the Albanian border, in Kučka krajina. Other species of amphibian include the brilliantly spotted fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra), Balkan crested newt (Triturus marmoratus) and Balkan stream frog (Rana graeca).
Skadarsko jezero (Lake Shkodër), with its five ornithological reserves (Manastirska tapija, Grmozur, Omerova gorica, Crni zar and Pančevo oko), is one of the largest and most important ornithological sanctuaries in Europe, and an important stop on winter migration routes. Not surprisingly, it contains the greatest concentration of birdlife in Montenegro – some 270 species, a number of them quite rare. However, recent statistics indicate that the number of birds wintering here has fallen sharply over the past few years – lowering the population from more than 250,000 birds in 1999 to just 35,000 in 2005. It is possible that many are now wintering at salt flats around Ulcinj instead. Species you may find at Skadarsko Jezero or on the coast include the great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), pygmy cormorant (Phalacrocorax pymeus), glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus), shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) and the rare Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus). In the mountains, some of the rare or more unusual species include the black grouse (Tetrao tetrix), cappercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), rock partridge (Alectoris graeca), goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), Lanner falcon (Falco biarmicus), griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), golden eagle (Aquilla chrysaetos), short-toed eagle (Circaetus gallicus), eagle owl (Bubo bubo), alpine wwift (Alpus melba), horned lark (Eremophila alpestris), alpine accentor (Prunella collaris), blue rock thrush (Monticola solitarius), wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria) and the common crossbill (Loxia curvirostra), known locally as krstokljun. Other more common species include the common buzzard (Buteo buteo), snowfinch (Montifringilla nivalis), rock nuthatch (Sitta neumayer), sombre tit (Parus cinctus) and alpine chough (Pyrrhocorax graculus).
It is considered that the diversity of marine fish fauna of the Adriatic sea comprise 117 registered families but with low level of endemism. To date, 40 742 marine fish species have been registered in Montenegro which represents 70% of species registered in Mediterranean. Skadarsko jezero is among the most important areas that are inhabited by the freshwater fish, where 40 species of fish, including species that migrate from marine to freshwater ecosystem, like eel (Anguilla Anguilla), shad (Alossa falax nilotica) etc.