On the 19th of August 3 members of the European Wilderness Society drove to Postojna where we would participate in wolf howling as part of a census for wolf populations in Slovenia.
Pulling off the motorway we arrived at a petrol station, bustling with crowds of people taking a break from their long drives. There we found a small group at the edge of the car park. Excitedly we greeted the group who were the other survey teams and as the sun set over the car park we were all given some back ground information on wolves in Slovenia and our purpose for the next four nights.
Please also read: The boomerang of bear and wolf cull in Slovenia
How to howl
Each group was given 5 quadrats and other key information; for example to look out for and how to identify wolf scat. Pro tip, it contains lots of hair, smells really pungent and slightly sour! After getting all the information we needed we practised howling, the organisers took it away with the first howl and everyone joined in. How to do it: start at a low tone and build up in a crescendo for roughly 5 seconds and critically, do not to let your voice break. In the field one person in each team would howl at a quadrat towards the four points of a compass and then wait for a few minutes for any response. If nothing was heard they would repeat it a further two times before moving on to the next quadrat.
Proof is in the howling
With our assigned locations and a quick look at how best to tackle each one we set off to arrive at our first howling point after sunset. Arriving, we quietly prepared ourselves. It is key to make as little noise as possible, so in the car we took note of our location, who would howl, time and date and then got out. Outside of the car we waited for 5 minutes to ensure everything settled before howling to wolves for our first time.
With ears pealed for any notion of sound, we waited anticipation for a howl back but unfortunately only heard a cacophony of dogs in the distance. So I guess that meant we were doing something right.
On our night went, driving from howling point to howling point along creeping roads that melted into darkness. Each of us howling at one point and then waiting for what would return our call. The night was not to be ours unfortunately. We came home with only dog cries and a quick stop to look at a frog, which I personally really enjoyed.
However, in the morning we woke up to news of other teams’ successes. A few had calls back from packs of wolves while some even heard from packs and their cubs and a very lucky few even saw some cubs! So tonight we again venture into the darkness in hopes of striking gold and hearing the wolves respond. Wish us luck!