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Kuterevo Bear Sanctuary

Kuterevo Bear Sanctuary, a special place to look after baby bears, was founded In 2001, by the Kuterevo Association of Velebit. This is a place that looks after baby bears that lost their moms due to accidents or poaching when they were too little to take care of themselves. Young volunteers from different parts of Europe help by feeding the bears, welcoming visitors, and teaching them how important bears are for the environment. They also do various tasks at the sanctuary. 

You can visit the refuge in spring, summer, and autumn, except in winter when the bears hibernate. It’s free to enter, but they appreciate donations, and you can support the association by buying souvenirs. 

If you leave the highway at the Otočac exit, you can take a 15 km long and twisty road to Kuterevo. The road gets pretty narrow, and sometimes you might need to pull over to let cars from the other way pass. Look out for signs with bear shapes along the road – they show you’re on the right track. 

The sanctuaries are in a place with rocky land shaped by nature. The small bears stay in one area, and the big bears stay in another. At first, the spaces might not seem huge. They’re enclosed with a metal net. It might seem like a zoo, but they tried to make it as much like the bears’ natural home as possible. There’s a den made of wood and stone for the bears to have their own quiet space. 

Kuterevo Bear Sanctuary 2

Nurturing Orphaned Bears for Conservation

Kuterevo, a little village on Velebit, is home to 634 people. It sits between the coast and Velebit, just 30 km away from Senj, a lovely coastal town. Also, it’s only 60 km from the famous Plitvice Lakes National Park and a mere 10 km from North Velebit National Park. Kuterevo stretches along a 6 km valley, and there’s a market in the village where you can get all the things you need. What’s cool is you can find lots of homemade and organic goodies from local families – like milk, cheese, eggs, and veggies. Buying from these locals is a great way to support organic farming, connect with the village folks, and learn about their products and traditional way of life. 

Kuterevo Bear Sanctuary 2

Sometimes, baby bears end up without their moms because of accidents on the road or because people hunt them. Other times, the cubs might get separated from their moms by strong rivers, or they wander off during play and get lost. Once they’re away from their moms, it’s tough for the bears to survive. The younger they are, the less chance they have, and if they meet a person, it gets even harder. Cubs raised by humans can’t learn the skills they need to live in the wild. They get used to human smells and noises and think people mean food

If these bears are let go in the wild, they might get hurt by other bears, or they might stick around human homes, begging for food and causing problems. That’s why the cubs fed by people in Kuterevo from a young age can’t go back to the wild. But these bears can still help protect wild animals by making people more aware and educated about them.  

Kuterevo Bear Sanctuary 2

Meet the Bears

First off, let’s be clear – a bear sanctuary is NOT a Zoo. The bears live in big, roomy, green spaces designed to mimic their natural environment. Unlike in a restaurant, the bears don’t get their food handed to them. Instead, it’s scattered on the ground and between branches, making them work a bit to reach it. That’s why the bears in Kuterevo are quite lively. They argue, yell, and sometimes even have little fights, and they always know who’s in charge. 

Blago Zoo and Bena Zir are bears born in the Zagreb Zoo, but they had to move to Kuterevo because there wasn’t enough space for them. Ljubo Lik was found very thin and hungry where a new highway was being built. Gor, a healthy bear, got used to getting food from people when he was young, making him dependent on them and unable to survive on his own in the wild. 


In spring and fall, when you come to visit, tell the Volunteer Station first. A long-time volunteer will meet you, show you around, and give you information. In the summer, local female hikers will welcome you, share info, and make your visit enjoyable. 

It’s best to visit in the early morning or late afternoon, especially in the summer. The sanctuary is always open. You can come from morning to night, preferably after 9 a.m. and until 7 p.m. The sanctuary mostly relies on donations from visitors, with some support from businesses and local government funds. If you donate to the bears, you’ll get a special bear souvenir as a thank you. 

Kuterevo Bear Sanctuary Life: Volunteers, Bears, and a Shared Journey

Apart from a few regular workers, volunteers take care of the bears. These volunteers come from all over the world, and getting chosen is a lengthy and careful process because more people are applying than there are spots available. When we visited, there were young folks from Spain, Holland, Italy, and more. They stay together in a shared house near the sanctuary, eat vegetarian food, and help out with the bear-related tasks. They arrange the surroundings, gather food, and even get to prepare lunch in the house. 


Here’s an interesting fact: the workers and volunteers never get close to or touch the bears. This way, the bears can have conditions as close to their natural habitat as possible. Since the Kuterevo Bear Sanctuary opened, a whopping 10,000 volunteers have been part of it! Some stay for a few months, others for a year. There are even those who plan to stay briefly but end up staying for eight or nine years. 

Discover the charm of Kuterevo! 

Support local communities, explore organic treasures, and experience traditional village life. Plan your visit today!  

Your CTC Team

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