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Wolves in Pokljuka

8 March 2022
University of Ljubljana

Data on the presence of wolves, for assessing the abundance and distribution of wolves in Slovenia, have been collected since 2010, when the LIFE SloWolf project established a monitoring system based primarily on the collection and analysis of non-invasive genetic samples and the detection of territorial wolves and pups by systematically eliciting their vocal response (“howling” – an acoustic method). Genetic monitoring is based on the identification of individual wolves from the genetic material in the cells that the animals continuously leave in the environment (mainly feces, urine and hair (follicles)).

Wolves in Pokljuka - Life Wolfalps EU
A urine sample in the snow. Photo Maja Sever
First wolf reproduction

The first signs of wolf reproduction in the Alpine part of Slovenia were observed between 2018 and 2019, when three male-female pairs were detected on the basis of genetic samples collected in the Jelovica, Pokljuka and Cerkljansko areas. The locations of the samples suggested that wolves would return to Gorenjska after several decades of absence. In the summer of 2019, for the first time, we officially confirmed the presence of pups in these areas.

Origin of the reproductive couple

The genetic fingerprints of the male and female wolves that established territories in Pokljuka indicate that they came from wolf populations in other countries. The male originated from Italy and was a direct descendant of the wolf Slavc, which traveled from Slovenia from the Slavnik area to the Lessinia Park north of Verona, where, together with an Italian wolf, it established the first wolf pack in the area after more than a hundred years of absence of the species. The female came to the Pokljuka area from the southern part of the Dinaric population.

The reproductive male of the Pokljuka pack has not been detected since June 2019. However, in the 2019/2020 season, we detected a litter of at least five wolves, his offspring, in Pokljuka. In the 2020/2021 monitoring season, we also did not detect the reproductive male among the collected samples, and we did not detect his offspring either. It appears that there was no reproduction in the area in 2020 and we assume that the Pokljuka pack from the 2019/2020 season has disbanded.

However, the original reproductive female is still present in Pokljuka. In the 2020/2021 season, samples of the unrelated male were collected. Genetic studies show that the new male also comes from the Italian Alps. The new pack was confirmed during a wolf census using the acoustic method (‘howling’), when we detected a pup response in the area. In September 2021, Triglav National Park rangers Franci Tišler and Florijan Tišler also recorded and thus confirmed 4 pups. A new pack has thus been established in Pokljuka, consisting of the original reproductive female and a new male.

Wolves in Pokljuka - Life Wolfalps EU
Pokljuka wolf pack pups, September 2021. Photo: Franci Tišler, TNP

Until autumn 2021, the Pokljuka wolf pack moved mainly on the Pokljuka plateau, in the area of Radovna and Mežakla. When the snow fell, they moved towards Bohinj, where they were followed mainly in the area between Ukanec, Vogar, Voje and Jezero. At the beginning of this year, they were again followed in the Pokljuka area. In less than two days, the wolves covered a considerable distance from Mežakla, through Radovna and Pokljuka, all the way to Lake Bled. There, they were filmed with the help of camera traps used to monitor the lynx within the LIFE Lynx project. We also found out that there are probably 6 wolves in the pack. In the Pokljuka area we also got the remains of prey (roe deer) that the wolves caught and ate in the same night.