Home Newsletter 2009 Wolf monitoring in the Appennino tosco-emiliano National Park.

by Willy Reggioni

An effective wolf conservation strategy must necessarily be based on adequate and reliable information. For this reason between 2001 and 2004 an integrated and standardized wolf monitoring system has been activated...

in the territory of three Parks in Emilia Romagna Region in Italy, in cooperation with the University of Rome “La Sapienza”. Its scope was to establish and refine baseline monitoring techniques for the presence of wolves and a large scale. After the creation of the Appennino tosco-emiliano National Park, which included the previously mentioned parks, the monitoring tool had to be adapted to a new, bigger area, including also parts of Tuscany Region.

In this view the priority of the first months of the LIFE EX-TRA Project in the Appennino tosco-emiliano National Park has been the adaptation of the monitoring techniques and its protocols, including the training of field personnel and the kick-off of the field activities.
In this first phase particular attention of the personnel was posed on the standardization of the monitoring activities, specifically the wolf-howling and snow-tracking techniques. Specific training sessions were organized in order to improve the coordination of the monitoring activities and a centralized data base was set up.
For the wolf-howling technique a systemic sampling method was introduced. This foresees a “saturation sampling” strategy, including necessary opportunistic adaptations to respond to the local needs. Specifically, the preliminary choice of wolf-howling locations occurs on the basis of GIS data, whereas the suitability of each selected point is then analysed according to parameters such as the location in relation to the rest of the territory, the access facilities, the presence of acoustic disturbance factors (settlements, water flows etc.) and the absence of geomorphologic obstacles that might hinder the diffusion of the sound. These parameters were accurately tested during specific field surveys on each wolf-howling location, carried out in summer 2009. This sampling technique allowed both to exclude unsuitable areas (e.g. areas unsuitable for rendez-vous sites due to the presence of human dwellings) and to concentrate the efforts on areas with higher probabilities to host wolf packs.
For the snow-tracking activities an “intensive” sampling strategy was elaborated in October and Novermber 2009. This consists in a permanent tracks searching effort. A system of recognition trails is chosen, located opportunistically inside adjacent sectors of the territory. This procedure allows to maximize the probability of the field personnel to come across wolf tracks and to cover the whole park territory, thus increasing the effectiveness of this technique. Also in this case the tracks were first chosen on a map according to GIS information, and then verified in the course of specific field surveys.
On the territory of the National Park the used monitoring techniques and their protocols were additionally adapted according to logistic needs such as the availability of resources and personnel, and in order to increase the number of sampling on a yearly and seasonal basis.