Wilderness and wildlife at the Wilderness Academy Days

Wilderness and wildlife go hand in hand. By definition, Wilderness provides a home for wildlife, and is large enough to support stable populations of species. Therefore to understand Wilderness, you must understand wildlife. To this effect, at the Wilderness Academy Days we held a session ‘Wilderness and Wildlife’, for participants to exchange their knowledge and experiences on the topic.

Please also read: Wildlife in the postmodern era

The portrayal of European Bison by local communities

Joanna Tusznio, from the Institute of Environmental Sciences, Jagiellonian University in Poland, spoke of her research on the social effects of free-ranging European bison. Through understanding local perceptions of bison, it is possible to protect their population and develop coexistence strategies with local communities. Białowieża Forest, Poland, is known as the homeland of European bison, hosting approximately 600 individuals. The second territory is Bieszczady Mountains, which is the home of 480 free-ranging bisons. In addition, in Western Pomerania, approx. 210 individuals live. Unfortunately the irresponsible way of bison tourism causes a lot of trouble in the touristic areas and there would be a great need for sustainable bison tourism developmet. The first examples of farmer stewardship models for bison started emerging. Coexistence models currently vary greatly between the three territories and depend on the local stakeholder’s needs. Possible approaches for the future are ranging from developing a sustainable bison tourism through separating bison and society or transforming conflict and damage into stewardship programs, to potentially completely withdrawing human intervention.

European Wilderness Academy Days 2019 © Copyright
European Wilderness Academy Days 2019 © Copyright

Monitoring large carnivores along the Carpathian grey infrastructure

Gabriella Nagy from CEEweb presented the Interreg project ConnectGREEN, which focuses on increasing the capacity of ecological corridor identification and management to overcome the conflict between infrastructure development and wildlife conservation. Within the project, Natura 2000 site managers, conservationists, spatial planners and other key stakeholders are approached to strengthen the capacity for identifying and managing ecological corridors for viable populations of large carnivores. During it’s lifetime, the project tackles the identification of key ecological corridors and critical barriers in the Carpathians connected to the distribution of target species and core areas. This will be joined by an analysis and set of recommendations on the current planning systems to minimize habitat fragmentation and a strategy to restore and manage these mountaneous ecological corridors.

European Wilderness Academy Days 2019 © Copyright
European Wilderness Academy Days 2019 © Copyright

Transboundary wildcat conservation

In Austria nowadays, the wildcat counts as a rare guest. David Freudl and Zdenek Macat shared their experiences with Wilderness management in Thayatal National Park, Austria and Podyji National Park, Czech Republic with a focus on wildcat conservation. The two national parks work in close cooperation and develop cross-border projects, targetting wildlife corridors, among others. One focus is on Wildcat conservation and monitoring. David and Zdenek explained, that the differentiation of wildcats and domestic cats based on morphology is not easy. New studies show which features are really useful for distinguishing domestic and wild cats. There are some visual hints that help the observer to distinguish between them, however the conclusions of these studies show that intestinal length, brain volume and skull index are the only features that reliably separate domestic and wild cats due to the lack of overlap of the measurements and three coat features (tail rings, neck and shoulder stripes). The speakers also introduced various monitoring methods, including lurestick and photo traps. Reports of wildcat sightings have been increasing in number over the last few years. The accumulation of current evidence in Thayatal National Park reinforce the hope for a true comeback of wildcats in Austria.

European Wilderness Academy Days 2019 © Copyright
European Wilderness Academy Days 2019 © Copyright

You can read summaries about each session of the Wilderness Academy Days here: Wilderness in the US and Europe, The impact of climate change on forests, Wilderness outreach and cooperation, Wilderness Stewardship, and Managing visitors in Wilderness.

To also read the abstracts, please see the Book of Abstracts below:

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