Germany – Looking for Wolves

So, yes, we ventured out and about to look for wolves, again. But this time, we did so with a pro! Anne does wildlife tracking and wolf monitoring – have a look at her website

We met up just south of our city, Cottbus, in a hamlet called Oelsnig, parked our bikes and strolled off into the pine forest. Birdwise, it was a rather quiet day, although we saw the first yellowhammers and goldfinches of the year. Anne taught me to imitate a raven call; she does it so well, that the local ravens started to shout back.

On our walk, we stayed mostly on the main path and our guide looked at the tracks with us. Because it’s quite sandy, plenty of prints were visible. For example, we learned to tell the difference between cat, fox and dog and how to tell a roe deer from a red deer. Spot the difference in this picture!

But since wolves were our main objective, we learned a lot about them. Anne was a fountain of information with facts reaching from genetic analysis of scat (that’s wolf poo for the uninitiated) to the animal’s role in culture and religion. She also patiently answered all my questions.

We found lots of different deer tracks, some fox, saw some places where wild boar had dug for roots and eventually, we found this. Yay!

Now, being a professional, our guide pointed out that from a couple of prints alone she could not hundred percent confirm that this animal was Canis lupus, but certain features were a strong indicator that this wasn’t a big dog. Firstly, the size of a paw and secondly, the distance between the very straight-lined paw prints. It was exciting to touch this proof of existence of a being which has been so reviled by some people. Was I afraid? No. Even when I’m alone out birding, the only things I keep a watchful eye out for are ticks and single males. Humans are not on the wolf menu. Interesting fact though: Wolves can burrow underneath fences quite well, which is why fences to protect livestock need not only to be tall but to be buried about half a metre.

So, did we actually get to see a wolf? Nope 🙂 . They are very shy and flee humans. If we ever encounter one, Anne suggested firstly, not to panic (no, we’d take photos!), not to look him or her in the eyes and then slowly back off. We did, however, find some scat which was already a bit old. Exciting to touch the hairs which had passed through a wolf’s digestive system (of course I did! I also disinfected my fingers afterwards.). We were not quite sure what hair it was but badger seems fairly likely. It was an amazing day – thanks a lot to Anne. And who knows, I might get that photo some day. I’ll certainly keep looking.