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Roe deer, humans and wolves: a study on their interactions has begun in Valle Pesio

11 March 2022
Aree Protette Alpi Marittime

University of Turin, Alpi Marittime Protected Areas and CACN5 Hunting District together to understand the dynamics between prey, predators and human activities.

The study of the interactions between human activities (hunting, tourism and the presence of domestic animals), prey (roe deer) and predator (wolf) got underway in Valle Pesio with the positioning of 8 boxtraps and the application of radio collars to the first two roe deer captured. The activity began in October with the training of a team composed of a PhD student and 5 thesis students from the DBIOS Department of the University of Turin, some technicians and park rangers from the Alpi Marittime Protected Areas and the staff of the Hunting District CACN5.

The group will work to investigate the spatial dynamics between roe deer, wolves and human activities, in a complex context such as the Alps, where the relationship between prey and predators is conditioned by the presence of man.

A full description of the research activity was provided during the workshop in September 2021, in the presence of all stakeholders.

Roe deer, humans and wolves: a study on their interactions has begun in Valle Pesio - Life Wolfalps EU
Roe deer photographed with camera traps in Valle Pesio. Photo credits: Archivio APAM.

In recent months there has been intense work to monitor certain areas through the positioning of 60 photo-traps that have made it possible to identify the places most frequented by the roe deer in order to identify suitable locations for the positioning of the capture cages. A further 20 will be added for summer monitoring.

In February, the so-called boxtraps, wooden boxes with three fixed walls and a snap-on door, were positioned. At the moment there are 8 boxtraps in place, 3 of which are inside the protected area and 5 in the CACN5 alpine district. Simple signs indicate their presence to communicate their purpose.

When the boxtrap is active, the door closes as soon as the roe deer enters, sending out a signal via telephone that allows immediate intervention. It is a safe method of capture, which does not require anaesthesia of the animal, which is released immediately after the application of the radio collar. The boxtraps were built by the staff of the Park Authority following the indications of the major experts in Italy.

Roe deer, humans and wolves: a study on their interactions has begun in Valle Pesio - Life Wolfalps EU
Information panels on the boxtraps. Photo credits: Roberto Audino.

At the end of February, the group undertook a much-needed training session with Sandro Nicoloso, one of the leading experts in this type of capture, with two days of field work, during which all the various stages of capture were tackled: from selecting the most suitable sites to checking the boxtrap triggering and alerting systems, to the delicate handling operations and ending with the release stages, taking into account both the logistical and veterinary aspects.

These operations are carried out in accordance with a precise operational protocol defined in collaboration with the Department of Veterinary Science of the University of Turin. The catches were authorised by the Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca dell’Ambiente (ISPRA) and the competent office of the Province of Cuneo.

Roe deer, humans and wolves: a study on their interactions has begun in Valle Pesio - Life Wolfalps EU
Some moments of the workshop. Photo credits: Roberto Audino.

During the last week of March, two young female roe deer were captured, fitted with radio collars and biometric data collected. GPS have already started to transmit data on the animals’ locations, which is essential information for the study. The trapping campaign began successfully and unexpectedly quickly, considering the sub-optimal conditions due to the absence of snow, which did not encourage the animals to search for food inside the boxtrap.