The untouched beauty of Ioannina’s mountains, forests, rivers and lakes provides an invaluable haven for dozens of species of animals, some of which are endangered or cannot be found anywhere else. Unfortunately, illegal hunting is still a problem, even throughout several of the region’s national parks. Local efforts and education have taken big steps over the years to protect and conserve the area’s wildlife.
Ioannina is one of the last places where brown bears can be found throughout the country, though their numbers have dwindled due to hunting and road accidents. They have been spotted throughout the entire region, though pose no real threat to hikers or other outdoor enthusiasts. What is more likely to attack if provoked is the wild boar which is also widely hunted for its meat, though their numbers have remained steady over the past few decades. Deer roam the forests and mountain areas of the region and the Balkan Chamois, which is a rare kind of mountain goat, thrives throughout the mountain ranges of the area. Other less frequently seen species include the grey wolf, wildcats and otters. Wild horses can also be spotted roaming the mountainous areas of Souli and are a truly magical sight to witness.
One of the creatures with the biggest reputation throughout Ioannina is ironically one of the smallest. The Alpine Newt or Triturus alpestris can only be found within the two alpine lakes of the Pindos mountain range. The appearance of this small amphibian (which admittedly does bear resemblance of a dragon) is what led to the alpine lakes being referred to as drakolimnes or “dragon lakes”. While modern residents of the area and visitors may chuckle, local legend supports the claim that centuries ago the local population believed that real dragons haunted the peaks which overshadowed their villages.