August "Wolf Workshop"

Another “Wolf workshop” is behind us! An intimate meeting for friends of our Foundation was held on Friday, August 19, and had a slightly different character than previous ones – it focused on exploring on foot the beauty and wildness of the magical Świętokrzyska Forest, where “our” wolves live.  

At around 11am, after a brief introduction to wolf monitoring methods and a map showing the last GPS locations of the wolves we monitored, we headed out into the field.

The first item on the agenda was a hike through the Swietokrzyska Forest. We took our guests to the heart of the forest and in a few hours showed the habitats that make up it: from dry forests full of old oaks, beeches and hornbeams, through moist fir forests with dense undergrowth, to swampy alders. Unfortunately, the prevailing drought meant that there was much less water in the forest than usual, and many streams dried up completely. The entire day was accompanied by hot, sunny weather, and we looked forward to the evening with longing.

As we walked, we followed forest paths looking out for wolf tracks – there were many of them – and cross-country, off the trails, checking places where, according to our telemetry data, there had been wolves some time before. We passed old trees, living and dead, which are increasingly rare in commercial forests. The decaying trunks, branches and fallen boughs, together with the ubiquitous lush vegetation, created an impression of the wildness of nature, which unfortunately can be experienced in very few Polish forests anymore.

During the walk, the manager of the wolf project, Roman Gula, talked about the Forest and the wolves and other creatures that inhabit it. Of particular interest to the tour participants was a den in an old oak tree, where wolf pups were probably born in the spring. Hair and fluff of fur were still visible dented into the soil!

After the walk, we got into our cars and set off for the place where, according to GPS data, the brothers Gagat and Geralt had recently been hanging out. We split into two groups and drove in opposite directions, stopping from time to time and tracking the wolf collars with a directional antenna. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time and none of the wolves could be located, but the participants still had fun trying to track the wolves with their own hands while standing with the antenna on the hood of our old Land Rover!

On the way back to base camp, we were still trying to locate the telemetry signal of one of the wolves and also went deep into the forest to personally check the location of Gagat from the previous days. We wanted to see what the wolf had been doing in those locations – eating, sleeping? We discovered that he had spent a lot of time in a place where a herd of deer had previously rested. Every now and then we came across the beds of these animals, crumpled in the mulch. In addition, right next to it was the fence of a forest nursery, so Gagat had ideal conditions to hunt something for dinner (recall that wolves like to use the fences of forest crops when hunting deer).

We eventually spent the whole day in the forest and by the time we returned to base camp it was already dark night. On the way, we stopped near a wolf rendez-vous for a simulated howl, which proved remarkably effective – the entire wolf family responded to us almost immediately! For a minute or so, we could listen to the yapping of the pups and the wailing howls of the adults, which seemed to be just around the corner. After this thrilling “encounter” with the wolves, we returned to base camp.

Author: Joanna Toczydłowska