Snow tracking on Menišija plateau

Posted - Dec 15, 2020

My name is Špela Čonč and I am a research assistant at the Anton Melik Geographical Institute and a doctoral student at the Biotechnical Faculty in the field of Biosciences – Protection of Natural Heritage. I am preparing a doctoral dissertation under the mentorship of dr. Miha Krofel and co-mentor dr. Mateja Breg Valjavec on the topic of GIS modelling of lynx movement depending on the relief features. Since I will need as much information as possible about the locations and movements of lynxes in the analyses for my doctoral dissertation, I was looking forward to the first snow of this season and was happy to go snow tracking with dr. Miha Krofel in the area of Menišija.

We did most of the tracking by driving slowly on forest roads, because according to some characteristics, the tracks of individual animals can be recognised from afar. In the beginning, I learned how to recognise the tracks of foxes and deer, which were the most numerous during the tracking.

Typical track of deer (left) and fox (right). Photo: Špela Čonč

After just a few kilometres of driving, we already noticed the first tracks of a large carnivore that belonged to a bear. Because of the size of bear tracks, they are difficult to confuse with other animals and mostly they can be mistaken for human tracks.

Soon after, we found a wolf track, which we also followed. Typically the wolf walks in a straight line, occasionally interrupted by a short detours to the edge of the road, a pile of snow, or vegetation, which he marks with urine. We followed the wolf track, which was quite unusual for the wolf movement as it was extremely winding. The track led us to the wolf’s resting site, which may explain the winding track, as the wolf was looking for a suitable place to rest. There were we got some hair’s for genetic analyses.

The wolf track and the hair we found on the wolf resting site. Photo: Špela Čonč

Afterwards, we returned to the car and continued with the slow driving. The next track we found was from lynx. Amazing, three large carnivores at once! Probably the track belonged to lynx Catalin, who is equipped with a telemetry collar and established his territory in the area of Menišija. We followed the track and also recorded it with GPS. The lynx first walked on the road and then turned into the woods. Because lynx often step in the tracks of other animals, we had to be more watchful. The tracks led us to the spot where the lynx sat and observed the surroundings. We found many tracks, resting sites and faeces of deer nearby. Due to the real highway of tracks, we unfortunately lost the lynx track and returned to the car.

The lynx track and the place where the lynx sat. Photo: Špela Čonč

Next, we came across a wolf trail again, which probably belonged to the same wolf as in the previous two cases and another bear track.

Snow tracking is exciting and educational as it reveals the “secret” life of animals and allows us to better understand their ecology.