White Wilderness 2016 – Slovakia

Otter Tracks & Kill Site Near the River

During the winter of 2016 I went back to Slovakia as a staff member for the White Wilderness Project of the Slovak Wildlife Society ( check out my blogs about 20152014, 2013, & 2012). This year we had some interesting stories as well. I came across some otter tracks near a small stream, we have found a kill site in the river, and we found some very fresh blood drops…
We also come across some other beehive defences against bears.

Otter Tracks

During one of the transects we didn’t find a lot at first. After a while we came across some strange tracks. It was a combination of just single tracks, slides, going near the river… We found otter (Lutra lutra) tracks. We found them in a decent sized river (about 5m wide), but the tracks suddenly started moving away from the river. They followed our transect/path for a while. They made several stops and finally disappeared in a stream with a max width of 1m. The tracks disappeared under the ice and gone was the otter.

Kill Site Near the River

We had found a couple of wolf tracks up until now. Today we started of with some wolf tracks and some decent faeces. Suddenly we found some red snow. We all know what this meant, something had happened, but what?

Soon the tracks lead us towards the river, once again. At first we couldn’t figure out where all the fuss (tons of wolf tracks) was about, but suddenly we saw some fur in the river. Somehow the carcass got into the river and was stuck under the ice. We could see it was a red deer, but we wanted to investigate more, so we pulled it out of the river to have a closer look.
On the right picture, you can see how we first found it. The left picture could give you a clue what happened. You can see clearly a disturbed line/path on the hillside (darker brown) going almost vertical. This was part of the chase. It was not totally clear if the wolves dragged in down or they killed it near the river bank, although the later will make more sense. Probably the deer ran down and in the little river valley, the wolves jumped on top of it. 
After pulling the deer out, I could even find some bite marks on the deer’s throat. Typically for wolves to suffocate the animal. Although it’s all guess work, with tracks you can reconstruct a story quite well. I must confess it trains my imagination as well. This was another great story of CSI Slovakia.

kill site1
kill site 2
kill site 3

Blood Drops...

We were back in the area we found the wolf kill earlier in the season. Our transect was quite empty of tracks until we stumbled on something… blood drops on the road. Something was bleeding while crossing the road, and it all looked super fresh… We had another mystery to solve.
We started of backtracking and it soon become clear we had a red deer bleeding. Sometimes the blood was in the hooves, but most of the times not, to probably not a hoove/feet injury. We also could see from the gait the animal was moving fast, even close to running. Why? Well, a bit further we came across canine like footprints. So potentially a wolf, but strangely this one was disappearing into the forest. Anyway, we were still confused, but dedicated to keep going and find out what happened. We found another wolf track, this time following the deer, but leaving into the forest as well (forward). While backtracking these tracks, there was still 1 red deer track and now these 2 wolf tracks. Moving from the path to the river bed to the path again… this clearly looked like a hunt, with blood drops once in a while. Finally we found the spot where both the red deer and the wolves came down from a slope onto the path and the river bed.

Now, what have we learned so far…
Two wolves are chasing a deer. they chased it down a slope, down a river bed to the path we were on. Suddenly the wolf tracks have gone into the forest, leaving the track of the deer. The deer continued across the road where we first found it. 
What most likely has happened: the wolves were hunting this deer, either we or a forestry car that just had passed us, have distracted the wolves so they abandoned their hunt (for now).

The wolf tracks disappeared into a dens forest of small pines, so we were unable to follow them. We tried to track forward the injured red deer, as it was crossing a river and going up a hill. We managed to follow it for a while, but snow wasn’t sufficient enough to keep finding the blood drops. So in the end we also had to abandon our CSI Slovakia Part II. 

Check out my blogs about my experiences in other years: 2017201520142013, & 2012

Want to know more about Slovakia? >> Check out our Slovakia Page

Slovakia is a great place to visit, both in winter and summer.

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