Snow tracks monitoring in Kuterevo

Not always it´s possible to see all the wildlife surrounding us, but it is possible to recognize these animals, whether mammals, birds or reptiles, through the signals they left. The footprints, scats, dens, feeding marks, leftovers from the prey … give us evidence of their lives and for some animals this are the only way for be sure of their presence. Going out in search of traces allows us to be more conscious (in a non invasive way) about the animals that are living near us.

Monitoring is a method with whom you could determine the status of a species, if it’s present or not, what is its distributions, its trends (positive or negative) the absolute number, and the population health. Should be made with standard method, and the best thing is making it in all the population area. This can be difficult in case the population is spread in more countries (like Croatian bear population, that is part of the Dinaric-Pindos population, that includes 8 different countries!)

A perfect moment for monitoring wolf tracks is 24-48 hours after the fall of the first snow because once you find tracks, you follow them till they do not split in more and then you know the minimum individuals in that pack. So this Sunday, volunteers went for the second time (the first was in the end of November) to the forest. The aim was mainly monitoring the presence of large carnivores such as bears, wolves and lynxes in the area. For not make it only fun but also serious we use  GPS , fill in a standard form for Croatia, and monitoring data are sent to the coordinator for the region.

Even if you don’t find nothing, the lack of information is also an information, because the effort you made for finding a track can tell you for example if the specie is rare or not present in that area.

This is the first year that we volunteers are involved in the monitoring of large carnivores in Croatia and for that we received a training course. Thus, we are still practicing and looking for ways how volunteers can get more involved into monitoring of large carnivores and contribute to their conservation. The better are made these monitoring the closer to reality will be the estimating of the total number of individuals of a species and their population trend, from which will depend all conservation measures, including interventions in populations (such as hunting).

In these two excursions we found many traces of ungulates, rabbits, little rodents, foxes, mustelids and (one) bear tracks!

Some of us do not have much snow in the home country and seeing a white forest was really beautiful!

                                                          Guaci y Teo

Caution – frogs crossing!

One day, the little frog woke up. He looked out of his insulating winter bed of dry leaves, somewhere in his winter habitat in the forest. Finally it is starting to get warmer! And such a nice rain! 

So the frog decided to start his long journey to the lake in which he was growing up. On the way he found a nice mate and because the female was so in love, she offered him to carry him to the lake. After some time they came to a big, grey plain. “Strange”, the frog thought, and they began to cross the plain, slowly, with the heavy mate on her back – the last thing they saw where two big bright lights…

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Every spring, countless amphibians migrate from their winter habitats to the waters in which they lived as tadpoles, they mate and lay their eggs in the shallow water. Many of them have to cross roads which we build in their way – up to 80% of the local population doesn’t survive this attempt.

In the Gacka region, close to Velebit, we have this problem too. In our neighbor village Švica are a lake and a pond. On the way to the lake, the amphibians have to cross the mainroad, which connects Otočac with the villages Kuterevo and Krasno.

In the first two warmer days we already counted around 70 dead amphibians on that area. As it spring is coming now, more and more animals will start to migrate.

Already last year Milo and Daniel, two french EVS volunteers started a project to help them, called „Dobra Žaba“ – good frog. They were working with a team of volunteers of the local high school in Otočac. They informed the people about the problem and built up toad fences to catch the animals and to carry them over the road.

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This year we continue to help the frogs by informing the public and especially the neighbourhood, with warning signs and information signs and posters, as well as with a cleaning action at the pond. Also we will analyse the roadkill, to see where the most animals cross, so that we can build an effective toad fence.

In the next articles we will write some more about amphibians and their important role in the ecosystem.

If you also want to help the amphbians, drive carefully when it’s raining and you are near waters, especially during dusk and dawn. Also your local environmental organisations are always happy to get some helping hand with building and controlling the fences.

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Because only a living frog is a good frog.

Dominik

Lynxes, a relic of wilderness

With the lynx, volunteers in Postaja finished learning about the three big carnivores of Europe. Lynxes are a genus belonging to the family of felines and contrary to the thought that lynxes are simply a big cat they are more related with tigers. Nowadays in the world live four species of lynx. Canadian lynxes (Lynx canadiensis) live in the forests of Alaska and Canada and their hair is light and long to protect from the cold. Eurasian lynx (L. lynx) live in the forests of Europe, Siberia and South and East of Asia. Eurasian lynx is almost extinct in Western Europe and only left a few populations in mountainous areas of Italy, France and Balkans. The red lynx or Bobcat (L. rufus) inhabit in Norteamerica from the South of Canada to the North of Mexico. Iberian lynx (L. pardinus) inhabit Iberian Peninsula and only a few populations remain in the Southweast of Spain. The size of the lynxes is an adaptation to their environment: bigger bodies lose less heat than smaller. As an example Eurasian lynx adapted to colder winters weight between 18 to 30 kg, the Iberian lynx weights around 12 kg, while the red lynx around 6 kg. Contrary to wolves lynxes are solitary animals, but sometimes they meet in little groups to travel and hunt. Lynxes only eat meat and they have an exquisite taste, they feed only in certain animals. Due to the fragmentation of their specific habitat and the reduction of their prey lynx is a fragile specie that should be preserved.

To illustrate lynx situation I talked about Iberian lynx to the rest of volunteers. Since the beginning of 20th century the populations and range of the Iberian lynx have been reduced. First it was the over hunting to obtain pelts that restricted their range to Southweast of Iberian Peninsula. Then the arrival of a rabbit disease from France made rabbit populations decrease almost to their disappearance. Because of the Iberian lynxes feed principally on rabbits they were on the edge of their extinction in the 90´s. But in 2001 with the LIFE project Iberian lynx populations started to recuperate. Reinforcement of populations to increase genetic diversity, recuperation of rabbit populations and reintroduction in areas where lynxes used to live are some of the actions developed in the project. The success of the project is the last chance for the survival of Iberian lynx. The situation of the Croatian lynxes is not better than in Spain. The remaining populations reach only 50 lynxes in the mountains. The principal threats of the populations are the fragmentation of the habitat and the lack of prey and as well as in Spain there is a Life Project for the recuperation of their populations. The protection of the lynx doesn’t affect only to them but also to the habitat and all the animals and plants that live in there. Lynxes as bears are a symbol of the last wild places that remain in Europe.

Distribution of the Lynx in the Iberian Peninsula (bellow Spain):

MapFor more information:

Watch the documentary “Spain´s last lynx”

Check this links:

About Iberian lynx: http://www.lifelince.org/
About lynx in Croatia: http://www.life-vuk.hr/ris/