Germany: 376 km and 157 scats…

Peter & I dropped off group 1 at Bremen earlier today and here is the summary of what we have achieved:

We covered 307 km on forestry roads and paths on foot and an additional 69 km on bikes.

Over this distance we only found two wolf tracks, but they were under 100 m in length; tracking conditions have not been good generally as the ground is very dry. A 100 m track is a very tough ask, but it is what the official state monitoring protocol requires in order to accept a track as being made by a wolf. It is the one sure sign that tells wolf from dog, because dogs run around much more erratically, whereas wolves save energy and have a real purpose to their gait.

But we made up for the lack of tracks by finding 157 scats. Yes, you have read right. 157! Anyone who ever says that citizen science can’t make great contributions to wildlife research and conservation may now forever hold their tongue! Of the 157 scats, 46 were too old for any further analysis; 111 were good enough for dietary analysis (which will be done over the next few months) and of those 111, 11 were good (i.e. fresh) enough for DNA analysis (also over the next few months)

Looking at the geographical distribution, the 111 scats were found in fourteen different cells of the European 10 x 10 km grid. Compared to last year, the team covered about the same distance within five survey days, but the number of findings is exceptionally high. So we’re getting better with age!

Remember those Biosphere Expeditions priorities of safety, science, satisfaction? Safety: Fine, nothing untoward happened. Science: Bloody hell, well done team 1! Satisfaction: Comes with the science and the days out in the field, but also with a great base and staff at NABU Gut Sunder (thank you!).

Highlights? Visiting the shepherd & wolf commissioner Holger and his guarding dogs was surely a great opportunity to look behind the scenes of a livestock owner and breeder of guarding dogs. Holger is one of those enlightened shepherds who accepts wolves belong in this landscape and creates an opportunity out of the challenge by becoming a wolf commissioner and dog breeder. We need more people like Holger! Being in the field with wolf commissioner Theo and benefitting from his obvious knowledge, not only of the wolf packs in his area, but also of all other wildlife, the dynamics within a forest habitat and nature itself, is also quite an experience. And then there was the excursion to the far north-eastern part of our study area, which gave us the opportunity to operate in a different landscape.

Our last night together on Thursday was spent – where else – around the campfire. For some it lasted into Friday….

Thank you to everyone for making this a fun and very effective week. I hope you all enjoyed the last week as much as Peter & I did. Safe journeys back home!

Team 2, you have big boots to fill and I look forward to meeting you all tomorrow morning at 11:00.

Continue reading “Germany: 376 km and 157 scats…”

Germany: 99 scats in six days!

Update from our monitoring expedition studying wolves in Lower Saxony, Germany

It’s already expedition day five and all the teams have been out in the field every day – time for an update on our activities! After the introduction & training days on Saturday and Sunday, we split ourselves up into four groups and went to different locations each day.

We conducted an intensive survey in the Celle district close to base on Monday, but unfortunately the scat samples of the resident pack we found weren’t fresh enough for DNA analysis.

On Tuesday & Wednesday a team of four went north (district Luechow–Dannenberg) for an overnighter. Clare, Susanne, Rudolph & I camped in the backyard of Kenny’s Biohotel Kenners LandLust and were briefed on the survey routes by wolf commissioner Kenny himself. (Wolf commissioners are local people trained in wolf surveying and assisting their community with reporting and dealing with wolf-related incidences. They are important links between local communities and the state’s efforts in monitoring wolves and dealing with the consequences of their presence). It is known that two packs reside on Kenny’s wolf commissioner patch, but DNA sampling of individuals is missing, so our main job was to hunt for fresh scat from which DNA can be extracted. So we hunted and we found. 65 (!) samples, to be exact, with fewer than ten fresh enough for DNA sampling. It was way past midnight when Peter, with Lea assisting, finished sorting, labelling and freezing them.

Other teams went to the districts of Harburg, Heidekreis and Holzminden. Some of these areas called in and requested that we come and survey them. This is quite a change from last year, when there was a lot of skepticism about citizen science. But we stuck at it and our 2017 report, and the great results detailed therein, has silenced the critics.

No results in Holzminden (a new area), but we made a first assessment and will continue looking for proof of wolves. Some of us met wolf commissioner Theo again, who took a group out investigating “his” area. Others met shepherd Holger and his guarding dogs.

Overall we found 99 (!) scats samples so far, 13 of which were fresh enough to attempt DNA extraction and analysis.

I’ll let you have a review of the first week shortly; Friday will be the last day of group 1. For now enjoy the pictures and some wolf howling, and those preparing for the next week, get ready, get excited! The weather here was changeable up until Tuesday, but next week is meant to be warm and dry throughout.

Continue reading “Germany: 99 scats in six days!”

Germany: We’re on our way

Update from our monitoring expedition studying wolves in Lower Saxony, Germany

Group 1 is underway. All were there at the Bremen assembly point. This year’s first expedition team consists of eighteen members from seven different countries, including three journalists and three local placements.

From Bremen we travelled to Doerverden Wolfcenter to learn about and encounter our target species from very close for a while. Training (and introductions) continued back at our base of NABU Gut Sunder, a beautiful oasis of nature and calm in the middle of our study site. Dr. Jana Sprenger from the State Wolf Buero gave a talk about the history of the wolf in Germany, the development from 2002 onwards and the present situation in the state of Lower Saxony, where we work with the official wolf monitoring programme. There was training on equipment, track recognition, scat collecting and more. Quite an intense day, rounded off with an intense World Cup football match, which Germany won at the last second. The relief amongst the Germans was palpable 😉

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Germany: Opener for 2018 Germany wolf expedition

Update from our monitoring expedition studying wolves in Lower Saxony, Germany

We’re getting ready for you. As you can tell, our expedition leader Malika and scientist Peter really love being on camera, but fear not they will be less awkward in the field.

No hassle so far from the local press or anyone else, unlike for our inaugural expedition last year when there was a lot of hostility and fake news around (you’ll know what we mean if you read the 2017 report) and not many understood what this citizen science thing was. The local paper Weser Kurier, quite hostile in 2017, even picked up on our latest press release and ran a positive piece.

It’s warm and sunny at base today, but a dip in temperatures is forecast for the weekend, before it’s back to sunshine and high twenties again. We’ll take it as it comes, of course.

We’ve set our focus areas in cooperation with our friends at the State Wolf Bureau and the State Forestry Authority is playing ball too this year, thank you. Some forestry areas are even ringing up and requesting survey teams to be sent to them too! Encouraging stuff and long may it continue.

Safe travels, group 1, and we look forward to seeing you on Saturday.

Continue reading “Germany: Opener for 2018 Germany wolf expedition”

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