Germany : Wolf monitoring rewarded

Update from our Germany wolf volunteer project

Our first week of intensive wolf monitoring in Germany has come to an end and we just said goodbye to a great and motivated team. These wildlife conservation expeditions are always full on – and perhaps partly because of this – they are truly rewarding in terms of research and data collection. Lotte and Peter worked quite late yesterday to go through all the evidence collected this week. This morning’s wrap-up presentation summed up nicely what a team of ten dedicated wolf volunteers can accomplish in just a short week:

Our wolf citizen scientists walked a total of 310 kilometres in no fewer than thirteen 10x10km grids in seven different wolf territories. These long hikes resulted in a total of 79 scats collected, 54 of which will go in the freezer for dietary analyses and of these 6 should in principle be suitable for DNA analyses. Twenty-five scats were considered too old. Lotte already started entering data in the official wolf monitoring database and experts will validate the information and decide which ones to process further.

On our last day of monitoring, Lotte and Eleanor had unique encounter in the Ebstorf wolf territory. While checking a junction for wolf evidence, Lotte checked all four paths with her binoculars and could see an animal off in the distance. As the individual headed in their direction, they could tell it was a wolf. They stood still, kept quiet but at a distance of 60-80 m the wolf noticed them, turned around and walked back along the path and into the forest. Half an hour later they found a fresh scat and clear footprints, completing the experience quite nicely with even more evidence and data to hopefully identify the individual and reveal further secrets of the local wolf pack.

We thank our wolf volunteers for their hard work and dedication, braving temperatures up to 32°C on long hikes to contribute to wolf conservation through citizen science data collection. We hope to see you again one day and we look forward to meeting our new team tomorrow.

Claudia and Pat entering data
Lotte checking datasheets
Alistair checking weather data
At the end of the last survey day
Wolf territory
Sybille braving hot weather
Thank you team 1
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Germany : Wolf monitoring in full swing

Update from our Germany wolf volunteer project

On Monday our team set out to two different locations for a full day of wolf monitoring. Team Claudia and Stefan accompanied by Lotte set the first record returning to base with no less than eight scats. Our experienced team Sigi and Sylvia brought back the first fresh scat, suitable for DNA analysis. Like detectives on a mission, this set the tone to monitor as many locations as possible.

On Tuesday seven of us set out on an overnight trip to Göhrde, a 2-hour car ride north-east of our base. We were welcomed there by wolf commissioner Kenny at his beautiful bio-hotel, located in the middle of the forest. Once there, three teams walked a total of 75 km over two days (Tuesday and Wednesday) and managed to collect two samples for DNA and 23 for dietary analyses, much needed to assess the current situation of the local wolf pack. One of the highlights was stumbling upon the footprints of both adult wolves and their pups, truly exhilarating to see the evidence and realise you are walking in the middle of prime wolf territory!

In the meantime, closer to our expedition base, Alastair and Silvia joined Timo to check up on camera trap images on a wolf-proof fence put in place at a cattle farm. Lotte and Claudia braved the Naturistenweg (nudist walking trail), but kept their clothes firmly on 😉 Professional as they are, they stayed focused on the task at hand.

Our counter now is at 41 samples, including four good enough for DNA analysis, from five different wolf territories – and the team is ready for more. It is fun detective and wolf citizen science work in beautiful forests of spruce and pine, but also beach and oak, and heathlands interwoven with meadows. Also, there is plenty of wildlife around and between all of us we have seen foxes, roe deer, hare, red kite, cranes, newborn squirrels, a lonesome badger, staghorn beetles and many more.

Forest path
At work
At work
Relaxing at a lookout at the end of the day
Wolf tracks
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Germany : Arrived, trained, ready

Update from our Germany wolf volunteer project

This Saturday we welcomed our first team of wolf volunteers at the Bremen assembly point. Half of the team are Biosphere Expedition returnees keen to get a taste of new expeditions or returning to familiar ones. The trio Sylvia, Siggi and Pat are true hardcore wolf fans, having joined all four expeditions our work here in wolf conservation in Germany started. The remainder of our team has also been really keen to get into expedition action. So, it’s fair to say we have got a truly motivated team to get the citizen science wolf monitoring 2022 up and running.

After meeting up in Bremen, we drove to the Wolfcenter Dörveden to learn more about (and see) our target species. From there we proceeded to the expedition base at Herrenhaus Gut Sunder for 36 h of intensive training and a series of talks by a great team of experts.

Our expedition scientist Peter gave us an introduction to the state wolf monitoring programme , the priority survey areas and actual field data collection protocols. His assistant Lotte enlightened us about everything you possibly want to know about wolf scats (and more). Expedition leader Malika trained us on GPS and radio use as well as other equipment. Ingrid from the Wolfsbüro underlined the importance of citizen science in gathering long term data on wolf populations to inform strategies for coexistence with a large predator. Theo, the first wolf commissioner of Lower Saxony and an excellent photographer, treated us to a stunning presentation of the Lüneburg Heath biodiversity and how everything in this ecosystem is connected. Finally, this Sunday afternoon we did a first trial in the field to test our newly developed skills along a 7 km hike in pine forests in 31°C. Today, Monday, surveying proper starts in earnest.

Learning about the wolf at the Wolfcenter
Scientist Peter on the area around base
Peter’s assistant Lotte on scat
Expedition leader Malika on equipment
Sylvia and Alastair on data collection training
Training
More training
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Germany : Ready for you

Update from our Germany wolf volunteer project

Without further ado and in a sentence: We are ready for you – time to pull your weight.

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Germany : Advance team on site

Update from our Germany wolf volunteer project

We have slight staff overkill on this first full Germany wolf expedition for two years. There’s experienced leader Malika, training An to lead this expedition, our scientist Peter and our founder and executive director Matthias, who happens to be in the area.

There was not a cloud in the sky during the five hour drive up from our German office in Bavaria to our manor house expedition base in Lower Saxony, which sits there like nothing has happened and has done so since 1649. It will probably cloud over by the time you arrive on Saturday, but it should stay warm.

Entrance to the expedition base
Malika packing up

A word about the base: This is run by a charity that involves mentally challenged people as staff, for example those with Down syndrome, who are in the high risk group for Covid. Because of this, management have kindly asked us to wear masks inside when we are with staff, so please make sure you bring enough (for this purpose the thinner medical masks are fine).

About the charity that runs the expedition base
This morning at the expedition base

We’ll spend the next couple of days getting everything ready for you and report back once more before we meet group 1 at Bremen airport on Saturday.

Safe travels and we’ll see group 1 soon!

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From our conservation holiday volunteering with lynx, wolves, bears and wildcats in the Carpathian mountains of Slovakia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/slovakia)

This year’s expedition is over and we have all left our cosy base in Švošov. Tomas and I dropped the team at Kral’ovany station and waved everyone goodbye when the train left for Bratislava. We spent a couple of hours more at base checking and sorting out equipment, putting some of it in storage for next year and packing the rest to be taken back. I arrived back home yesterday, dropping three equipment boxes into the Biosphere Expeditions storage facility on the way.

Before saying farewell, let me tell you what happened on the last couple of expedition days: Three teams each day collected camera traps in Rákitov, Blatná and Turecká valley. The main Lubochňa valley was surveyed once more in two sections. Another attempt of finding the green connecting trail in Raková valley failed. 😉 New on the species list we recorded a trout found near Blatná lake – frozen, unfortunately.

As usual, Tomas summarised the second group’s results after the de-brief on Friday evening: Team 2 surveyed 22 cells and 13 transects walking a total distance of 177.7 km, an average mileage of 13 km per team per day, respectively. Lynx was recorded 6x, wolf 19x and bear 32x. Compared to the week before, the number of wolf recordings is much lower. “It is very likely that two out of the three resident wolf packs have moved to the other side of the mountain ridge”, Tomas explained. The tracks that were found in Turecká valley and reports from forester friends both corroborate this hypothesis. By contrast, the bears are active, because plenty of food is available (i.e. beech nuts), so there is no reason to hibernate. Of couse Tomas will look much closer into all data collected in due corse, when writing the expedition report.

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Preliminary overall results after two expedition weeks are: We recorded 20 lynx, 66 wolf and 98 bear signs, the latter number a record in the six years the expedition has run at this site. The 8 (wild)cat tracks we discovered reveal the presence of another small predator in the Velka Fatra National Park. Nesting golden eagles were seen three times. And we also collected 10 samples of wolf, lynx and bear urine and/or scat for DNA analysis. Finally, another great result we found on one of the camera traps: Once more a lynx was photographed, this time during the day and in colour. The picture is good enough for identification of the individual, it shows the whole animal and its unique coat patterns.

So another successful expedition and a big thank-you to everyone involved in the project. František and Ludmilla, thanks for making us feel at home and keeping us very well fed at your house. Noro, thanks a lot for being a great mate & guide and sharing your plum juice. Everyone on the teams, thank you so much for in putting your time, sweat, skills and money into this project, which simply would not happen without your support. I hope you enjoyed our time in the Carpathian mountains as much as Tomas & I did and I hope to see some of you again somewhere sometime!

Very best wishes

Malika Fettak
Expedition leader

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From our conservation holiday volunteering with lynx, wolves, bears and wildcats in the Carpathian mountains of Slovakia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/slovakia)

Gone are the misty days. The sky is blue during the day and clear at night. We recorded – 8 degrees C on the weather record sheet on Wednesday morning. Although the snow is covered by a layer of ice in most places, we were still able to find fresh animal tracks on our surveys.

Martin, Timothy and I walked Čiernávy valley on Tuesday and found wolf, bear and many, many foxes. On the way out, we walked past an active wood-cutting site where a massive tree blocked. By the time we came back, it had disappeared.

In Turecka valley Saskia, Vincent and Noro found fresh wolf tracks and replaced a couple of camera traps.

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Ed, Connor, Holger and Tomas found another bear “playground”, fresh wolf tracks nearby and recorded an otter track. “Technical problems” with the snow shoes slowed them down on the way back, they said. They walked the more than knee deep snow without aid – well done guys, that’s expedition style! 😉

Noro’s team had somehow manipulated the GPS – their odometer reading was 30 km. After some discussion during the de-brief, we agreed on a total distance walked of around 35 km for all teams.

We will be collecting camera traps from Thursday onward, in order to have brought back to base all 18 of them by Friday afternoon. On the cameras that have been replaced on Wednesday we found a great video, have a look:

Besides quite a few pictures of fox, wolf and wild boar were also recorded by the cameras, but no more lynx. Keep your fingers crossed for more good results in the coming days.

Continue reading “From our conservation holiday volunteering with lynx, wolves, bears and wildcats in the Carpathian mountains of Slovakia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/slovakia)”

From our conservation holiday volunteering with lynx, wolves, bears and wildcats in the Carpathian mountains of Slovakia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/slovakia)

Team 2 consisting of Ed (U.S.) in his second week, Sakia (NL), Connor, Martin and Tim (UK), Holger (D) and Vincent (S) have arrived safely on Sunday and are preparing to head out for the first full survey day. As ususal everyone ran through briefing and training sessions over the last two days. On the training walk on Monday, we went up and around Blatna lake again, tried the snow shoes in various terrains, recorded fresh wolf tracks, collected wolf urine from a marking place, saw a golden eagle and had a nice cup of hot chocolate at Pod Lipami. Everyone is now well prepared for the surveys to come.

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Continue reading “From our conservation holiday volunteering with lynx, wolves, bears and wildcats in the Carpathian mountains of Slovakia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/slovakia)”

From our conservation holiday volunteering with lynx, wolves, bears and wildcats in the Carpathian mountains of Slovakia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/slovakia)

Video by ORF journalist Christian Cummings about our Slovakia lynx, wolf and bear expedition. A radio programme about this will be broadcast on Sat, 25 Feb 2017 on Austria’s ORF FM4 (see http://fm4.orf.at/chriscummins).

Continue reading “From our conservation holiday volunteering with lynx, wolves, bears and wildcats in the Carpathian mountains of Slovakia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/slovakia)”

From our conservation holiday volunteering with lynx, wolves, bears and wildcats in the Carpathian mountains of Slovakia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/slovakia)

On our last survey day on Friday the teams again walked more than 40 km overall, checking parts of the main valley, collecting some of the camera traps that were set on Tuesday, but also placing a couple more in promising spots, i.e. near a fresh wolf kill.

The snow conditions have worsened over the last few days. It’s been thawing during the day and freezing at night. In many places the snow is covered with a solid layer of ice, so fresh footprints and tracks are much more difficult to spot.

In the evening Tomas summed up the provisional results of the first week:

  • The teams walked a total of 173.5 km, covering 14 transects and surveying 15 cells of 2.5 x 2.5 km
  • 18 camera traps were set up
  • Five samples of our target species were collected for DNA analysis: Two bear scats, one lynx and one wolf urine as well as one wolf scat.
  • The teams recorded hazel grouse once, two golden eagles, otter four times and wildcat seven times. They also found 17 lynx, 47 wolf and an overwhelming number of 66 bear signs. Never before on this project (in February) have bears been that active.
  • Pictures of red deer, fox, pinemarten, squirrel and lynx were found on the cameras brought back to base (see pictures).

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It was almost midnight when we went to bed after a shot of Tatra tea or Frantisek’s homemade ginger/honey vodka. The week has gone so quickly!

Thank you everyone of team one, you’ve done a great job collecting a huge amount of data every single day on long distance walks equipped with snow shoes, clipboards and GPSs. Thank you so much for putting a lot into this project, which could not happen without you. It was a great pleasure to meet you all. Safe travels or enjoy your onward trip.

Team 2, I will meet you at Bratislava station at 9:00 on Sunday morning.

Continue reading “From our conservation holiday volunteering with lynx, wolves, bears and wildcats in the Carpathian mountains of Slovakia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/slovakia)”

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