Day 3 saw the team embark on a full day of camera trapping. After a short session at base learning how camera traps work, and viewing some images of bears, lynx and wolves taken earlier, we set out in three teams, to check on existing cameras and install new ones.
The main focus of this work is lynx. These are hard to study using other non-invasive methods as their hair rarely contains enough DNA to successfully identify individuals, and their scat is hard to find, unless tracking them in snow. In contrast, it’s possible to identify individuals based on the unique patterns of markings on their flanks, so the camera traps we’re using take colour photos (with a flash at night) and are positioned in pairs to maximise the chances of photographing both flanks of passing animals.
Our suspicions as to the rangers’ descriptions of the terrain were verified – routes included some pretty steep and challenging sections. Trails involved four of five hours walking, with breaks for views. Along the way we encountered several fresh bear scats and prints, as well as a den.
During day 4, the team was working with Oliviu, an ecologist with FCC, on the enclosures, which will house the bison, due to be translocated in October this year. We drove, then hiked to Bunea hide, then located a suitable site on the forested slopes below, which will form part of the bison enclosure.
We undertook vegetation surveys along a transect, contributing to a baseline habitat assessment prior to the bisons’ release. This will allow FCC to understand the impact of the bisons’ presence on the forest, by comparing changes in the enclosed areas with ‘exclosures’ control plots in which the bison cannot graze.
The day was cooler, with a high temperature of 18 degrees, and light rain.