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Wolf research, conservation and conflict resolution in Poland

Why is the work needed?

There are around 1,200 wolves in Poland, mainly in the eastern and southern parts of the country, but in recent years naturally dispersing wolves have recolonised western parts of the country. Habitat suitability modelling carried out by researchers in Poland suggests that there is around 62,000 square kilometres of suitable habitat in Poland, with room for around 1,700 wolves. Wolves in Poland prey mainly on red deer, roe deer and wild boar. The wolf has been protected in Poland since 1998, but many packs live on the borders with Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Slovakia, where hunting is still permitted.  Other threats to wolves in Poland include habitat fragmentation and disruption of ecological corridors along which wolves disperse, due to building of new roads and expansion of towns and new development in tourist areas; disturbance by forestry activities, recreation and development; conflict with livestock farming (1-3% of wolf diet in Poland comprises domestic animals, mainly sheep); and human-caused mortality such as illegal killing and collisions with vehicles. Poland’s wolves are at the western-most edge of a large, continuous eastern European wolf population, which has retained its high genetic diversity, and are therefore an important source of dispersing individuals to other central and western European countries, including Germany.


Polish wolf track

What are we doing?

Wolves and Humans has worked with Polish organisation Association for Nature “WOLF” since 1998, supporting their studies of wolves in the Beskidy Mountains of southern Poland, part of the Carpathian Mountain range, and the Lower Silesian Forest, in western Poland.  Wolf numbers are monitored by carrying out field surveys for signs of wolf presence such as tracks, scats, den sites and sightings, and interviewing local foresters and hunters. Camera traps and howling surveys are also used. Samples of scat and hair are collected for genetic analysis to determine relatedness between packs in different part of Poland and assess whether these are isolated or interconnected.  This research is then used to identify conservation needs and implement measures to protect wolves and other wildlife.

As well as research, the Association also provides training to farmers in methods of preventing livestock losses to wolves, including fladry, electric fencing and the native Tatra Mountain Shepherd livestock guarding dog. Equipment and dogs are provided and full training is given to owners and shepherds. Monitoring is also carried out to study the effectiveness of these methods in different situations. Several publications about protection of livestock have been produced.

The Association also regularly give lectures and talks for schoolchildren, students and local communities on the role of predators in forest ecosystems, and run wolf workshops and seminars for foresters, hunters, livestock owners, nature protection officials from Poland, the Ukraine, Germany, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, as well as for students and naturalists from all over the world. Specialist workshops are held for staff of Nature Protection Departments, foresters, hunters and veterinarians from areas with wolves, including training in identification methods and determining causes of damages to livestock.

One of the most important aspects of conservation of wolves in Poland is assessing the impact of human activities (forestry, tourism, recreation, urban development, construction of transport infrastructure) on local wolf populations, and making recommendations to the Polish government to minimise the impact on wolves and maintain ecological corridors to allow dispersal across the country; for example, wildlife overpasses and underpasses have been included in recent road developments.

This work will help to find solutions for the long-term coexistence of wolves and people in Poland, and also provide a sound scientific background for assessing and preventing potential conflicts in areas of high human population density which are being re-colonised by wolves in other parts of Poland, as well as other countries in Europe.

How you can help
•   make a donation
•   Take part in one of Association for Nature “WOLF’s" large carnivore seminars, click here for details

Wolf Tracks in the Lower Silesian Forest
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