Volunteer to Track Wolves and Lynx in the Deep Wilderness and Mountains of Slovakia

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Track wolves and lynx in the Carpathian Mountains and learn about the art of tracking, reading signs in nature and also about the plight of the mythic wolf.  A rare opportunity to spend time in deep wilderness with expert trackers, wolf and lynx researchers & wildlife photographers in the midst of winter, when the wilderness is white and the tracks are clear.

Volunteers can join for 1 week up to 3 weeks in January and February of each year.

Individuals, groups and students all welcome.

Cost for food, accommodation in fully renovated guest house, equipment and training, and all in-country travel start from £820.

Wolves in Slovakia Volunteers getting ready to go tracking View of the Tatra mountains Collecting samples for DNA analysis Snowy forests and peaks Tracking through the forest in snowshoes Lynx Wolf track Thick snow on trees Volunteers recording data Measuring wolf tracks Wolf track Volunteer lodging Cosy and warm inside Looking over maps before tracking A volunteer out tracking Volunteers back at base Tracks in the snow

The Project

A volunteer tracking wolves in the Carpathian Mountains

Track Wolves and Lynx in the beautiful Tatra mountains in Slovakia. Learn about the art of tracking, reading signs in nature and also about the plight of the mythic wolf. A rare opportunity to spend time in deep wilderness with expert trackers, wolf and lynx researchers & wildlife photographers in the midst of winter, when the wilderness is white and the tracks are clear.

Following the successful launch of this ground-breaking project, which was featured among National Geographic Adventure Magazine's "25 Best New Trips for 2010", our project partner is 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 2,000: 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.

Study 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 & Costs

You can join this project for 1, 2 or 3 weeks. Below are the available dates in 2017:

Week 1: Saturday 14th January to Friday 20th January 2017
Week 2: Saturday 21st January to Friday 27th January 2017
Week 3: Saturday 28th January to Friday 3rd February 2017

Costs *
For 1 week (6 nights): £820
For 2 weeks (13 nights): £1332
For 3 weeks (20 nights): £1716

* If you are a student or work for a recognised wildlife charity or not-for-profit organisation, we may be able to offer discounted rates. Please contact aaron@workingabroad.com for more details.

This price covers in-country travel to and around the research area and to/from the meeting point, accommodation, food, provision of equipment, training and the services of local researchers, helpers and the team leader, WorkingAbroad Projects backup and support. They do not include travel to/from Slovakia, extra costs if staying in Bratislava before pick up or after drop off, insurance or personal spending money. All participants must take out adequate medical and travel insurance.

Lodging, Travel, Climate

Stay in this volunteer lodge while tracking wolvesThe volunteer lodge base for tracking wolvesAccommodation and food
Groups will stay in a fully renovated guesthouse with showers and modern amenities, situated in wooded surroundings at the edge of Nízke Tatry (Low Tatras) National Park. The shared bedrooms sleep 2–4 people each and there is a dining/common room. Meals provided on field days will be: buffet breakfast, packed lunch, cooked dinner.

How to get to Bratislava
You will have to arrange to travel to Bratislava, which is the capital city of Slovakia, where the meeting point will be. RyanAir, the cheap fare airline flies to Bratislava from various parts of the UK - check www.ryanair.com for prices.

Climate
January and February are the coldest months of the year - expect lots of snow and temperatures potentially down to -20 degrees celsius. You will generally get about 9 hours of daylight a day. A detailed list of what to bring will be sent once you have booked - but just as an idea, you should bring sturdy boots for walking on the snow and ice, a down filled waterproof outfit, hat, gloves, and scarf (or scarves!). Long underwear is perfect to wear under clothing every day. For snow shoeing or nordic skiing, winter sports clothing is good such as insulated skiing gear.

Fitness requirements
No special skills (biological or otherwise) are required other than the ability to communicate in English. However, you should be prepared to walk 10–20 km per day in hilly to mountainous terrain, sometimes on steep slopes. In winter months, snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures are likely to be encountered. It is your responsibility to have your fitness and physical condition checked by a medical and dental professional prior to departure. If you have an existing or previous illness/disability, which could affect your mental or physical condition during the conservation programme you must consult your doctor about your suitability to join the conservation programme and inform us. 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.

Interactive Map & Background

Below is an interactive map showing the location of the study area:



General information on Tatra National Park:
The National Park of Tatras (TANAP) in the north of Slovakia, was founded in 1949. It covers the high-mountain area of the Tatras and it is the unique protected area of flora and fauna among the tallest European high mountains situated east of the Alps. The TANAP contains mountain and high-mountain plants such as dwarf pine, pine woods and a wonderful flora. Rare animal species such as the eagle, bear, or marmot live there as well. The chamois is the symbol of Tatras. It is one of the most precious species, as it developed in isolation since the glacial age.

Volunteer Testimonials

Caitlin Bubb from Australia, joined the project in 2016

My two weeks spent in Slovakia on the 'Carpathian Wolf Volunteer Tracking Project' were absolutely incredible. All the group leaders were amazing and very knowledgeable, and great at training the volunteers. Everyday we were surrounded by incredible scenery while getting the chance to contribute to a worthwhile project alongside people from all over the world. Definitely an opportunity I would recommend to anyone, no matter their prior experience.

View over the mountains

Here is some feedback from volunteers in 2015:

“It has been a huge pleasure to me being with you out in the wild last week and hopefully contributing to the project as well. A big thank you goes to Robin, Sam, Peter, Michal, the guy that showed us the health and safety instructions for the mountains … Especially our host family will stay in my memories for good food, warmth and over-whelming friendliness.”

“Where to start! Absolutely fantastic two weeks. Eye opening, awe-inspiring and inspirational! Beautiful scenery and a great day every day. It been fascinating to see both lynx and wolf tracks and collect samples. Who knew picking up poo and sniffing urine was such fun … A huge thank you to all involved: Sam, Robin, Michal, Peter and of course everyone at the guesthouse. Could not have asked for a better time with better people, hopefully I will be back soon!”

“Just to let you know it has been another wonderful two weeks at White Wilderness as usual. To all the staff and at the guesthouse a huge thank you once again and all going well hope to be back soon.”

Print in the snow

“What a great two weeks with SWS!!! Had some great laughs and met some great people. Hope to see you all soon again.”

“Thank you all for what has been a wonderful 2 weeks. I’m not ashamed to admit that White Wilderness has become the highlight of my year. Hope to see you all next year.”

“Had an awesome time, snow joke!”

“Thank you so much for this awesome experience and the great work you do for the wildlife all year! Fantastic area, great company and lots of good memories!”

“Thank you so much to all the team and guesthouse for making this such an amazing week.”

“Thank you very much for this nice week. It’s a very nice project and hopefully more of these nice things will be happening in Slovakia. Surely see you soon!”

 


Bart Libaut volunteered on the project in January/February

A volunteer tracking wolves in the Carpathian MountainsI would say the set-up of the project was pretty professional and well taken care off, such as the presentation on the internet, travel info, practical arrangements, documentation, mountain security the evening before starting the work, the wide range of field materials, etc.

At the site itself, there was smooth coordination and also quite some autonomy and responsibility for/from the participants. It was definitely a good choice to have 3 'team leaders'; Robin overlooking it all (+ some focus on wildlife/tracking issues, of course), Dan taking good care of the 'social' and 'people' side of things (and throwing in his field experience from over the years) and Peter sharing his skills as an outdoor person and experienced tracker.

A view down into the Carpathian Mountains, the home of the wolfI was also very pleased to see that in Slovakia itself we had excellent accomodation and very attentive and friendly hosts. The delicious meals (always nicely 'adapted' for vegetarians), (hecto)liters of tea and warmth of the stove/fireplace were key and welcome ingredients to keep us going and carrying out the daily work in winterish conditions and often extreme temperatures.

Group-wise things went rather smoothly and I believe we had a good mix of people. There was enough room for participants to choose in which kind of field work they wanted to step into the next day (transects, scrutinzing tracks) and with whom.

Photos taken by Bart Libaut

How to Join

 
If you are interested in tracking wolves in the Carpathians, you will need to fill out the online application form (you can also print it out and send it to us by post) – to secure a placement on the project, please complete and submit the application form and your application payment of £180. If for some reason, your application is not accepted, we would reimburse this payment fully. However for those who are accepted, £145 of your balance payment needs to be paid within 7 days of being confirmed onto the project, with the remaining amount to be paid 8 weeks before your arrival to Slovakia. Before departure, you will also receive detailed information on what you need to bring etc. We will also require you to complete a consent form once you are booked on the programme. If you apply as a family or as a group, please email me at aaron@workingabroad.com for specific details/procedures.
 

 

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