Approximate Number of Animal Species in Italy (Excluding Bacteria, Viruses): 57,000
Most Dangerous Animal in Italy: Marsican Brown Bear
Italy Wildlife and Geography
Italy is a biodiversity hot spot that’s home to more animal species than any other European country. Impressively, a third of the continent’s fauna is represented in Italy. Why? Because the boot-shaped peninsula is the joint connecting Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. As such, it’s a cornucopia of ecological features that includes the Alps and Apennine mountain ranges, central woodlands, and southern shrublands. The fauna-rich cherry on top is Italy’s 4,900 miles (8,000 kilometers) of coastline that falls smack in the middle of the Mediterranean Basin biodiversity zone.
Italy’s wildlife is so impressive that UNESCO declared the Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park a World Heritage Site in 2009.
Excluding bacterias, viruses, and most microscopic invertebrates, Italy is home to about 57,000 known species, 4,777 of which are endemic to the region.
Between 102 and 126 mammal species live within Italy and its surrounding waters. According to the IUCN, of those mammals, four are Near Threatened, nine are Vulnerable, two are Endangered, and one, the North Atlantic right whale, is Critically Endangered.
Commonly spotted mammals in Italy include several types of shrews, Alpine marmots — which look like chubby squirrels — European snow voles, wild boars, and steinbocks.
Notably, Etruscan shrews — the smallest known mammal by mass — resides in Italy. The tiny and solitary animals weigh only .063 ounces, which is about half as heavy as a pencil. Another standout Italian mammal is the Alpine ibex. Found in northern Italian mountain ranges, males of the goat-antelope species are known for their gigantic, backward-hooking horns.
How many bird species are in Italy? The latest count stands at 516, but only about 267 nest in the nation. Bluethroats, hoopoe, and the stunning European roller, with its turquoise and electric blue feather patterns, are common. Birds of prey in the region include Bonelli’s eagles, Eurasian eagle-owl, and the griffon vulture.
Italian Reptiles and Amphibians
Scientists cannot agree on the number of reptiles and amphibians in Italy. Numbers range between 44 and 59 each. Common reptiles and lizards found in the country include spectacled salamanders, Italian newts, Italian stream frogs, Sicilian pond turtles, and the Italian Aesculapian snakes.
Hundreds of fish and marine mammals swim through Italian waters. Common species include the Italian loach and Italian barbel. Jellyfish, porcelain crabs, and octopus are also plentiful.
Researchers and naturalists have observed about 37,303 insects in Italy, and nearly 200 butterfly and moth species flit through the nation’s skies. Scarlet dragonflies, Cleopatra butterflies, and Praying mantis are all at home in the southern European country.
Endangered Animals in Italy
Below is a table that details a sampling of Italian animals deemed threatened, to some degree, by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. This Italian endangered animals list is not exhaustive.
Apennine Hare, Italian Hare
Southern and Central Italy
Habitat Loss, Hunting, Food Competition
Once Regarded As a Subspecies of the European Hare
Reproduces Through Direct Development of Terrestrial Eggs
Sardinian Brook Salamander
Sardinian mountain newt
Habitat Loss, Pollution, Tourism Disturbance
Stays Close to Water at All Times
Apennine Yellow-Bellied Toad
Hibernates from November to April
Aeolian Wall Lizard
Raffone’s Wall Lizard
Competition with Italian Wall Lizard
Only Four Populations Remain
Carpione, Carpione del Garda
Only in Lake Garda
Overfishing, Pollution, Competition
Didn’t Survive in any Other Lakes to which it Was Introduced
Lago di Posta Fibreno
Common Bent-Wing Bat
Schreibers’s Long-Fingered Bat, Schreibers’s Bat
Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East
Pesticides, Habitat Loss
Named after Austrian Naturalist Carl Franz Anton Ritter von Schreibers
Apennine Mountains, Western Alps
Human-Wolf Conflict, Poaching
Protected Since 1970s
Marsican Brown Bear
Apennine Brown Bear
Human-Bear Conflict, Habitat Loss
Has a Different Hibernation Routine than Other Brown Bears
Italian officials keep an eye on conservation and the country supports 20 national parks and 130 regional parks. Additionally, lawmakers have carved out 150 federally protected wildlife territories, 270 state ones, and 16 marine reserves.
Most Dangerous Animals in Italy
Italy is bursting at the seams with fauna species, and some are dangerous! Although, compared to a country like Australia, which is awash in lethal animals, Italy’s creatures are comparatively tame.
The Italian wolf — also known as the Apennine wolf — is the national animal of Italy. It’s symbolism dates back to the mythological story of Romulus and Remus. According to legend, a shewolf discovered the infant twins and kept them alive via interbreed suckling. Eventually, humans took the boys in, and they went on to found Rome.
Italian wolves are a subspecies of grey wolves and native to the Italian Peninsula. Today, between 600 and 700 individuals are alive and well. But in the not too distant past, only about 70 Italian wolves were left. Thanks to public and private conservation efforts, the species is making a comeback.
The capybara, the world’s largest rodent, likes to be in and around bodies of water. Because of this, the Catholic Church in South America decided that it was a fish, and people were allowed to eat it during Lent and First Fridays.