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Wolves in the Western Beskidy Mountains

     The western-most range of the Polish part is the Western Beskidy Mountains, located near the Polish-Slovakian and the Polish-Czech border. The Polish part of the region includes three mountain ranges: the Silesian Beskid Mts., Mały Beskid Mts. and the Żywiecki Beskid Mts. (total area 2 010 km2), separated by the Soła River valley. The region is densely inhabited by humans (on average, 150 person/km2). There is some agriculture and livestock farming, where small sheep and goat flocks are an important source of income. Most of the forests are exploited; only 1% is protected in a small number of nature reserves. Foresters’ activities have increased markedly since the winter of 2004/2005, after a hurricane and following dry summer seasons that caused a severe damage to local spruce monocultures, which led to clearing and re-forestation of large areas. Consequently a number of new forest roads have been built, which makes access to wildlife refuges much easier. There are a large number of weekend cabins and recreation centres along the forest peripheries as well as many ski lifts, ski routes, and tourist paths in the forest. In the Zywiecki Mts the guild of large predators includes the wolf, lynx and brown bear, two other ranges are inhabited mainly by wolves, but also visited sporadically by lynxes and bears.

Currently the whole area is occupied by eight wolf families, two packs (called Grapa and Bukowy) in the Silesian Beskid Mts., one pack (called Madahora) in the Maly Beskid Mts., and five packs (called Gron, Czort, Halny and Pilsko) in the Żywiecki Beskid Mts. Wolf family groups in the Żywiecki Beskid Mts. are subject to seasonal wolf hunting in the Slovak part of their territories. Packs in the Silesian Beskid Mts. and the Maly Beskid Mts. are legally protected, as all wolves in Poland. 

The total wolf number varies with seasons, on average we have recorded 30 individuals. The mean territory size of the wolf family is 160 square kilometres. Pup rearing places are located about 1000 m a.s.l.. During our study we have no documented excavated dens. Females give birth and rear their young under tree stumps and roots or in lairs located in dense spruce thickets. We never found wolf litters in caves, which are numerous within the study area. Such high location of pup litters, lack of the den cover and the intense human activity in summer cause a very high mortality amongst pups. Based on the howling stimulation, tracking and observations, we recorded only 1 or 2 pups per pack in early winter.

Though roe deer Capreolus capreolus dominated in the community of wild ungulates and livestock is abundant within the study area, the wolf packs prey mainly on red deer Cervus elaphus (42%), and next on the roe deer (33%). In both species of deer, wolves prefer killing females and juveniles more frequently than expected from their shares in the populations. Wild boar Sus scrofa made up 4% of the food biomass, in accordance with its low share in the ungulates community. Despite the easy access of wolves on numerous unprotected sheep flocks pastured on meadows among woods, livestock constituted only 3% of the wolf food biomass. ations, we recorded only 1 or 2 pups per pack in early winter. Though roe deer dominated in the community of wild ungulates and livestock is abundant within the study area, the wolf packs prey mainly on red deer (42%), and next on the roe deer (33%). In both species of deer, wolves prefer killing females and juveniles more frequently than expected from their shares in the populations. Wild boar made up 4% of the food biomass, in accordance with its low share in the ungulates community. Despite the easy access of wolves on numerous unprotected sheep flocks pastured on meadows among woods, livestock constituted only 3% of the wolf food biomass.

Learn more about wolves of the Western Beskidy Mts. from our scientific articles

Nowak S., Mysłajek R. W., Jędrzejewska B. 2008. Density and demography of wolf Canis lupus population in the western-most part of the Polish Carpathian Mountains, 1996-2003. Folia zoologica 57: 392-402.

Nowak S., Jędrzejewski W., Schmidt K., Theuerkauf J., Mysłajek R. W., Jędrzejewska B. 2007. Howling activity of free-ranging wolves (Canis lupus) in the Białowieża Primeval Forest and the Western Beskidy Mountains (Poland). Journal of Ethology 25: 231-237.

Popiołek M., Szczęsna J., Nowak S., Mysłajek R. W. 2007. Helminth infections in faecal samples of wolves Canis lupus L. from the western Beskidy Mountains in southern Poland. Journal of Helminthology 81: 339-344.

Nowak S., Mysłajek R. W., Jędrzejewska B. 2005. Patterns of wolf Canis lupus predation on wild and domestic ungulates in the Western Carpathian Mountains (S Poland). Acta Theriologica 50 (2): 263-276.

Nowak S., Mysłajek R. W. 2005. Livestock Guarding Dogs in the western part of the Polish Carpathians. Carnivores Damage Prevention News 8: 13-17.

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