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Roe deer, humans and wolves: the study on their interactions has started in Valle Pesio

6 April 2022
Aree Protette Alpi Marittime

University of Turin, Alpi Marittime Protected Areas and CACN5 Alpine 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 predators (wolves) has started in Valle Pesio with the positioning of 8 boxtraps and the capture of the first two roe deer: the activity began in October with the formation of a team composed of a PhD student and 5 bachelor students from the DBIOS Department of the University of Turin, technicians and park rangers from the Maritime Alps Protected Areas and the staff of the CACN5 Hunting District. 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 given during the workshop in September 2021, in the presence of all the actors involved.

Roe deer, humans and wolves: the study on their interactions has started in Valle Pesio - Life Wolfalps EU
Roe dee captured with the camera trap in Valle Pesio. Photo credits: APAM.

In recent months there has been intense monitoring of some areas through the positioning of 60 camera 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 boxtraps for capturing roe deer, wooden cages with three fixed walls and a snap-on door, were positioned. There are currently 8 boxtraps in place, 3 of which are inside the protected area and 5 in the CACN5 alpine district. Simple signs indicate their presence and 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 constructed by the Park Authority staff following the indications of the major experts in the country.

Roe deer, humans and wolves: the study on their interactions has started in Valle Pesio - Life Wolfalps EU
Information boards on the presence of the boxtraps. Photo credits: Roberto Audino.

At the end of February, the capture team took part in an essential training session with Sandro Nicoloso, one of the leading experts in this type of capture. The workshop consisted of two days of field work, during which all the various capture phases were tackled: from the selection of the most suitable sites to the verification of the boxtraps’ shooting and alerting systems, to the delicate handling operations and ending with the release phases, taking into account both the logistical and veterinary aspects.

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

During the last week of March, two young female roe deer were captured, radio collars were applied 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.