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White Wilderness: Carpathian Wolf Watch

Winter wolf and lynx tracking in the Tatra Mountains of Slovakia

Following the successful launch of this project in 2010, when it was featured among National Geographic Adventure Magazine's "25 Best New Trips", we are continuing this vital work.

What is the work and why is it needed?

While some environmentalists claim that the annual winter hunting season leaves less than 150 wolves in Slovakia, official game statistics list more than 1,500: a huge difference! And it's a similar situation with lynx. Are predators being hunted towards extinction, as the environmentalists say, or becoming too numerous, as hunters claim? The dispute shows the clear need for reliable, objective methods to estimate numbers of predators.

The White Wilderness project brings together international volunteers and local people, nature conservationists, foresters, landowners and hunters. Under the close supervision of experienced project staff, volunteers track wolves and lynx and collect samples for DNA analysis, which will allow us to determine the minimum number of animals in the area as well as to detect changes which could require urgent intervention.

Project area

Lying between the Tatra National Park to the north and the Low Tatras National Park to the south, the spectacular region of Liptov is a real treat for lovers of nature and the outdoors. Around 50% is covered by forests, which reach up to 1500m (5000 feet) above sea level. Beyond that is a zone of dwarf pine and higher still are alpine meadows. In the winter, much of the wildlife, including carnivores and their prey, move to the foothills and valleys to avoid the deepest snow, and it is here that most of our fieldwork will be focussed.

Dates

Winter fieldwork is carried out over a 3-week period, chosen to coincide with the best chance for snow cover for tracking purposes as well as the wolf breeding season. You can take part for 1 week (6 nights), 2 weeks (13 nights) or all 3 weeks (20 nights). For latest dates, please see the project webpages.

Fitness requirements

You should be prepared to walk 10-20 km per day in hilly to mountainous terrain with snow cover. On some routes, snow shoes may be required and will be provided. Don't worry if you haven't used them before, it's not difficult and you will be given instruction and time to practice. If you are a competent cross-country or alpine skier and have your own equipment, feel free to bring it along.

Conditions and booking

Participants make their own way to the meeting point at Bratislava main train station on Saturday morning. From this point until drop off at the same place the following Friday afternoon, all necessary in-country travel, accommodation, food, equipment and training will be provided. All participants must take out adequate medical and travel insurance.

Each week is limited to a maximum of 12 international participants, so we advise you to book now to avoid disappointment. If you are a returning volunteer, a student or an existing member of a recognised wildlife charity or not-for-profit organisation, please contact us for special rates. Otherwise please book online now through the Working Abroad website.