Carpathian Wolf Watch - White Wilderness
Take part in wolf research in Slovakia
Wolves and Humans has worked with the Slovak Wildlife Society and local communities in Slovakia since 1999 to carry out research on wolf ecology and numbers, address and prevent conflicts between wolves and people, improve public knowledge and acceptance and reduce the motivation for these predators to be killed.
The wolf occurs in around 40% of Slovakia, with highest concentrations in the mountainous northern, central and eastern regions. There are currently thought to be around 500 wolves in the country. Estimates in the past have put the population at around 2,000 individuals but were based on statistics provided by hunting associations, before there was any scientific monitoring.
Wolves can be hunted between 1st November and 15th January, with a quota set by the Ministry of Agriculture. This has varied from 35-150 wolves permitted to be killed in a season. As up to 40% of Slovakia’s 50 or so wolf packs are thought to have territories straddling the border with neighbouring countries, particularly Poland, this means that wolves fully protected elsewhere can be killed if they cross the border into Slovakia. Other threats include habitat fragmentation due to an increase in road building and development, conflict with livestock owners and competition with hunters for ungulate prey such as red and roe deer and wild boar.
The effects of hunting on the wolf population in Slovakia were largely unknown, but since 2010, the Carpathian Wolf Watch project has been working to change this. The project maps wolf packs and identifies individual wolves by genetic fingerprinting. The results have shown that there are far fewer wolves than official figures suggest: population estimates provided by hunters and previously used by government agencies to set hunting quotas were over-estimated by up to 700%. On the other hand, some environmental activists substantially under-estimated wolf numbers, harming their credibility as advocates. This highlights the need for objective, independent research to underpin conservation.
A combination of winter tracking, camera trapping and genetic analysis is used to determine the numbers of wolves and packs in the study area in the Tatra Mountains (part of the Carpathian Mountain range). Trained volunteers or citizen scientists, local people and students help collect genetic samples, which are then analysed by leading experts at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. The aim is to map pack distribution and size in the Tatra mountains and extrapolate this to produce an estimate of the total number of wolves in the country that is national in scope but verifiable locally. The results are presented to the official commission that sets annual quotas for wolf hunting, to help ensure that they are kept within sustainable limits.
Join the project
Winter tracking takes place in over three weeks, usually in January and February each year, with volunteers based in full-board accommodation at the edge of the Nízke Tatry (Low Tatras) National Park. Full training is given, and you should be able to walk 10-20 km per day in hilly terrain with snow cover. You can join for between one and three weeks. For further details, prices and to book your place, click on the link below to visit the Slovak Wildlife Society website.
Make a donation
Genetic analysis of samples collected during fieldwork provides unprecedented insights into wolf ecology and powerful arguments for their conservation, but it is expensive. Your donation will help pay for this analysis, contributing vital knowledge of wolf numbers to ensure sustainable management and safeguard the future of wolves in Slovakia and the Carpathian Mountains. Click on the link below to make your donation.