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Bieszczadzki PN arrow Vertebrate fauna

Vertebrate fauna

2. The wolf Canis lupus has in the past occurred throughout Eurasia, North America and northern Africa. At present it is an endangered species in some areas. In Poland, the Bieszczady population is the most numerous of all at some 100 individuals. The wolf can reach length of 100–150 cm, and the height at the shoulder of 78–85 cm. The male wolf is usually larger than the female.

In the reproductive season the wolves stay permanently in their territory, migrating over high distances throughout the rest of the year. The female gives birth to 4–7 pups in April. In the weaning period the male provides all food, while later the pair hunt and look after the pups in turns. In autumn the families are joined by young wolves from the previous year’s litter, forming a pack of mostly 6–9 individuals, which migrates and hunts together throughout winter. The discipline and internal organisation in such packs translates into high efficient hunting.

The main prey of the wolf are large herbivorous ungulates: red deer, roe deer and wild boars. It is principally the weak, young or sick animals which fall prey to the wolves. In winter, when snow makes escape more difficult, even adult ungulates may be hunted. The daily portion of meat for a wolf is estimated to be some 3–5 kg. In leaner times, the wolf will satisfy itself with carrion, birds and even frogs. The wolf kills domestic animals too: sheep and dogs that may be even be snatched from the chain within a farm.

Man has always tried to exterminate wolves. In the Bieszczady and Beskid Niski mountains a concerted campaign against wolves was conducted in the 1960s. The wolf was not even a game species then. Anyone could hunt these animals using any method, and a reward was paid for each killed animal. A dramatic drop in the wolf population numbers resulted in an excessive increase in deer populations which began to cause significant damage to forests, destroying young trees and forest cultures. The condition of individuals in the deer population deteriorated as man turned out to be much worse in selective culling than the wolf. Until 1995 the wolf was a game species throughout Poland, which meant hunting according to planned quotas and also the existence of mandatory off-hunting seasons. In 1995, the wolf was declared a protected species except for the Krosno, Przemysl and Suwalki regions. In 1998, a three-year ban on hunting wolves was introduced also in these three provinces previously excluded from the legal protection of the species.

In 1994–1996 the ranges of the wolf packs were successfully identified in the Park and its buffer zone. Five packs were found with an estimated total number of wolves of around 65 animals (Smietana, Wajda 1997). The Bieszczady National Parks has the protection of large predators as one of its main objectives (cf. Glowacinski [ed.] 2000).



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