Česká verze

Wolf and Lynx Patrols

Wolf and Lynx Patrols are trained volunteers who dedicate their free time to the monitoring and protection of large carnivores.

A young lynx in the Bohemian Forest

How it started

The idea came from Ludvík Kunc, a zoologist, conservationist and one of our foremost experts on large carnivores. When lynx started to return to the Beskydy Mountains they soon became a target for poachers who felt safe knowing that it was nearly impossible to discover their crime. Ludvík Kunc decided to spend as much time in the mountains as possible, walking regularly through the areas with the best conditions for the lynx, so the potential poachers could never be sure that they were alone.

In the 1990s, wolves started to return to the Beskydy and the situation repeated itself. After the decades of large carnivores' absence, sheep farmers in the Beskydy Mountains were not used to protect their herds from wolf attacks. Unprotected animals were an easy prey for the wolves. Legislation which allows the authorities to pay the compensations for any damage caused by protected species did not become effective until 2000. Real damages in combination with the lack of objective information, old fears, and myths lead to a panic and increased tolerance of illegal hunting among local people.

Ludvík Kunc and Leo Košťál from the civil society organization Beskydčan teamed up with the Friends of the Earth Czech Republic (Hnutí DUHA) and in 1999, the Wolf Patrols were officially launched.

In 2005, Friends of the Earth CZ used the same successful model in the Bohemian Forest where they started the Lynx Patrols.

Both Wolf and Lynx Patrols focus on all three species of large carnivores, if present in the area, as well as other rare and protected species (such as European wildcat, Western capercaillie, Ural owl, white-backed woodpecker, Eurasian otter etc.). Because the Wolf Patrols were created in reaction to the illegal killing of the Beskydy wolves in the 1990s and similarly, the Lynx Patrols responded to increased poaching of the lynx in the Bohemian Forest, the corresponding names are traditionally used in respective areas. On the organizational level, the two projects are run and funded by different local organizations of Friends of the Earth CZ; however, there is a very close cooperation and regular exchange of information and experience.

 

Currently, the Wolf Patrols operate in 5 areas of the Czech Republic:

The Lynx Patrols work in the Bohemian Forest and its foothills - the home of our largest Eurasian lynx population.

Volunteers outside the mountain chalet in the Beskydy Mountains

What the patrols do

The field monitoring of occurrence signs is the most important task of the volunteers participating in the Wolf and Lynx Patrols. The weekend-long introductory training sessions take place every year in autumn. During them, the new volunteers learn to recognize and record the footprints of different large carnivore species and identify and collect the samples of scat, hair or urine (from marking spots) for further analysis.

In the winter months, they regularly travel to selected locations where accommodation is arranged for them and they spend a day or two walking in small groups along the agreed routes, looking for any occurrence signs and, where appropriate, installing and checking camera traps.

Given the time and opportunity, and once they gained some experience, volunteers may also plan their own individual walks, always recording their routes and any findings in the shared database.

The data collected by the Wolf and Lynx Patrols is analysed and used by experts and nature conservation authorities, ultimately resulting in better protection plans and programmes.

Every year, the volunteers of Wolf Patrols take part in the large carnivore census organized by the Administration of the Beskydy PLA to estimate the numbers of wolves, lynx, and bears in the Czech part of Western Carpathians.

A member of Wolf Patrols measuring lynx footprints in the snowVolunteers recording their route in a map

The idea of Wolf Patrols originated from the desire to prevent poaching. Although the participating volunteers have no legal authority to stop potential poachers (and are not advised to try!), their regular presence in the mountains, especially in winter months when the threat of poaching is the greatest, can have a deterrent effect. The would-be poachers are aware that they might be seen in the act and many think twice. The Patrols also report any meat baits (which are banned under the Hunting Act) and other problems, such as the unauthorized use of motor vehicles in the protected areas, large-scale logging in nature reserves etc.

Perhaps the best prevention of poaching is the change of public attitudes and opinions towards large carnivores. The illegal killing spree in the Beskydy Mountains, following the return of wolves, happened in the atmosphere of a relatively high support from local people for such drastic measures. The Wolf and Lynx Patrols actively spread the information which helps shift people’s views. The project gained significant popularity over the years and no doubt contributed to the greater acceptance of large carnivores in our landscape which we see today.

 

Get inspired

Members of Wolf Patrols walking through the snow-covered landscape

If you would like to get a taste of what it is like to be a member of the Wolf Patrol, experience some adventure and learn new things, join one of the field monitoring expeditions we organize for international participants.

You can also support our Wolf and Lynx Patrols with a donation. Your contribution will cover the training of new volunteers, pay for their accommodation and equipment such as snowshoes or camera traps.

 

Francis Williams and Miroslav Kutal in the Javorníky. Read Francis's report from February 2013.

 

 

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