From our conservation holiday volunteering with lynx, wolves, bears and wildcats in the Carpathian mountains of Slovakia

Great number of brown bear confirmed in Veľká Fatra National Park, Slovakia

From 1 – 18 February 2017 the Biosphere Expeditions conservation project on large carnivores (lynx, wolf and bear) ran for its fifth year in the Veľká Fatra National Park in Slovakia. 17 citizen scientists from all over the world were trained up and led by Slovak scientist Tomas Hulik and an expedition leader from Biosphere Expeditions.

During ten survey days the team walked 344.27 km of transects, recording tracks, sightings and markings (urine, scat, hair) and collecting scat and urine samples of wolf, lynx and bear for DNA analysis. The team also set up 21 camera traps.

This year’s findings include 98 recordings of bear, 66 of wolf and 20 of lynx. This is the highest number of bear recordings since the project started in 2013. “A lot of food is available in the forest this year, first and foremost the nuts of beech trees”, Tomas Hulik explains, “so there is no strong reason for the bears to hibernate. We have confirmed bear presence throughout our study site and our results now allow a much more realistic estimation of brown bear numbers within the National Park”.

Wolf signs recorded this year confirm the presence of three packs occupying different territories within the national park and beyond. Lynx are also present in the park “and there may have been some non-resident individuals around too this year, since the expedition took place during the lynx mating season”, explains Hulik. A beautiful camera trap picture taken by the expedition, showing distinctive coat markings, means that one of the lynxes can now be re-identified during future expeditions. Eight recordings of wildcat tracks confirm their presence in the study area. “A great amount of data have been collected again this year. All information will be evaluated in detail in the expedition report”, Hulik adds.

Other findings during the surveys include tracks of red and roe deer, fox, otter, wild boar, pine marten, hare, hazel grouse, squirrel and other species. Golden eagles were also sighted three times.

The expedition will run again in February 2018. More information is available at www.biosphere-expeditions.org/slovakia. The expedition report with full details, conclusions and recommendations will be published before the next expedition on www.biosphere-expeditions.org/reports.

A selection of pictures is below.

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