3 Days of Wolf Tracking
During the field season of 2015, I was very lucky to track a lot of wolves. Basically, we stumbled up on wolf tracks during a transect. They were about 6 of them, which is fairly uncommon. The interesting part was that not only my group found evidence of a large pack, there were 2 other groups as well. We couldn’t tell for sure if these tracks were all from the same wolf pack. In the next days we tried to connect the dots. This was a very cool experience, both for staff and volunteers. This year I was a staff member again for the White Wilderness Project of the Slovak Wildlife Society ( check out my blogs about 2014, 2013, & 2012).
Before all this happened, I could enjoy also the beautiful High Tatras from a distance, enjoy some bear faeces, and one of my days with a nice ‘hot’ spring (rather warm, but enjoyable for the feet).
Day 1 - Finding Wolf Tracks
During our transect, we found some wolf tracks. The first thing that came to my mind was ‘Wow, a lot of wolf tracks’… Of course, that’s not the scientific approach, so we started to try and figure out what happened and how many there were. We found them on the edge of a pine forest and a large meadow. On the meadow, we could clearly see the prints (Picture). After some investigation we figured out it had to be at least 6 wolves, so we gave them the name ‘6-Pack’ (again, very scientific). Before continuing with our transect, we were going to figure out some more stuff. After some time we had a good idea of where they were coming from and where they were going. Additional to that, we could take some urine samples and we also found a very old carcass they checked on, but they didn’t kill it this time.
Day 2 - Following Wolf Tracks Around Village
During day 2 of our little adventure, the weather was very grey. I was going with my group to the point I left the 6 Pack the day before and track them forward. A couple of other groups were going to try and help to connect other dots. Full of excitement we started following the tracks. Sometimes it was hard to keep following the tracks. This was due to both snow conditions and sometimes the dense areas the wolves were crossing. But finally we got into the open, and we had a view on a little town in the Liptov area. We all were very intrigued and wondering what was going to happen next. What are the wolves going to do? We kept following the tracks and they were heading straight to the town. only about 300m before reaching the first settlements, the pack decided to change direction. They actually kept more or less the same distance all the way around the village. The wolf pack dit more than half a circle around the village. Anyway, we were still recording all the data and keeping on our track log from the GPS, so we could clearly see the route the wolves took once we were back home.
But we were still in the field, and we couldn’t believe these wolves have been so close the village. Although we were quite sure this must have happened during the night, in low human activity hours. After a full day of tracking to wolves forward, we found the tracks crossing a large river. I followed it for a little bit over the first parts of the river valley, where I scared of 2 Wild boars. They kind of scared me as well though. As it was reaching the end of the day, we called it a day and we might start from the other side of the river the next day…
Day 3 - Following Wolf Tracks to a Kill Site
On day 3 we had excellent weather. We took if to search for the tracks on the other side of the river and we found them straight away. Even more awesome, we found a couple of samples at our starting point. We tried to make sure we didn’t miss any kill site along the river, but it didn’t seem like. Off we went, following the 6 Pack! We were still circling villages (actually just circling a couple of villages close to each other). we were crossing field after field, which was nice and easy terrain. We had to cross a little stream, but we were lucky. There were beavers in the area who built a ‘bridge’ for us.
When we left the villages behind, we followed the 6 Pack towards a more forestry area. They were still travelling along a path, but suddenly the tracks spit up and went into the forest, down to a river bank. After a lot of looking around and following different tracks, we managed to find the first clue. We found a leg of a deer. It didn’t take us long to find the rest of the kill site. Probably the wolves killed a male red deer here… From here, wolf tracks were going everywhere, indicating they have been coming again to feed on the carcass. From this point, we never could find the point where all 6 wolves were together and travelling further… although another group had found a clue of their next destination, even with another kill site. Overall it was a great experience being able to follow these tracks for such a long time and get more insights in how the wolves are using the habitat.