Current winter is mostly snowless, even in our favourite study area - the western-most part of Polish Carpathan Mountains. Nonetheless, we were lucky enough to record several lynxes, which inhabit local Natura 2000 sites - Beskid Żywiecki Mts., Silesian Beskid Mts., and Beskid Mały Mts. See videos in our YouTube channel now!
Michał Figura from the Association for Nature "Wolf" conducted a workshop dedecated to the wolf biology and conservation for 70 kids from the Public Nursery School in Węgierska Górka - a village situated in western Polish Carpathians.
The Białowieża Forest (ca. 1,500 km2) is divided between Belarus (ca. 870 km2, almost entirely protected as a National Park „Belovezhskaya Pushcha”) and Poland (ca. 630 km2). Polish part of the Białowieża Forest (hereinafter PBF) is managed by the Białowieża National Park (only 17% of PBF) and Polish State Forest Service (remaining 83% of PBF). The Białowieża National Park was established in 1932 and that time covered only 57 km2. After long-lasting campaign of Polish NGOs and scientists the national park was enlarged in 1995 to 105 km2. Forests within the national park are protected. The Białowieża National Park was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1979 and extended to include the Belarusian part in 1992. In 2014, as a result of the request of local communities, the Białowieża National Park, scientists and foresters, UNESCO accepted a large extension of the property of 1418.85 km2 with a buffer zone of 1667,08 km2. According to UNESCO description: The area has exceptionally conservation significance due to the scale of its old growth forests, which include extensive undisturbed areas where natural processes are on-going. Despite high natural values of the entire PBF and ongoing requests to protect the entire forest, majority of the area is still managed by the Polish State Forest Service. The managed part of PBF is divided into three forest divisions: Białowieża (123 km2, 19% of PBF), Browsk (204 km2, 32,5% of PBF) and Hajnówka (196 km2, 31,5% of PBF). For all three forest divisions in PBF the forest management plans (FMP) for 2012-2021 have been accepted by the Minister of Environment in 2012. The FMP for the Białowieża Forest Division assumed that a total of 63,471 m3 of wood will be cut within 10 years. It included 771 m3 of large-size timber wood, and 62,700 m3 of young trees. This harvest limit was based on estimates and prognosis of the Białowieża Forest Advisory Council established by the former Polish President RP Lech Kaczyński in 2006, and agreed during negotiations with all involved parties (State Forest Service, local communities, scientists, etc). In spite of initial agreement, during 2012-2015 the Białowieża Forest Division logged 57,000 m3 of wood (90% of the harvest limit). Thus, in autumn 2015, the Regional Directorate of Forest Service in Białystok (being a regional agency of the State Forest Service) developed the Annex (update), to the FMP for the Białowieża Forest Division. This Annex assumes a significant increase of the harvest limit for the next 6 year (until 2021), namely logging of 318,000 m3 of wood, which is fivefold more than in the FMP planned for the entire decade. What is even worse, the new plan foresees logging of 198,900 m3 of large-size timber wood, partly in old-growth forests, what is 258 fold more than planned for initial FMP from 2012 to 2021. The new area of logging in the Białowieża Forest Division will include 78 km2 (63,5 % of the forest division, rest 34% are nature reserves where logging is forbidden). The logging area will cover: 34% of old-growth and 8,5% of coniferous forests, which are overgrown by the endangered forest habitat – bog woodland (91D0) included to Annex I of the Habitats Directive. The planned logging in the Białowieża Forest Division will cover 20% of all old-growths, which survived in Polish part of the Białowieża Forest. The acceptance of the Annex for the Białowieża Forest Division by the Minister of Environment will open a door to accept similar updates of FMPs for the Browsk and Hajnówka forests divisions. This will be a comeback of regular forest management practices typical for all ordinary managed forests across Poland. According to the Polish State Forest Service this significant increase of harvest limit is the only way to hamper the on-going bark beetle outbreak and to save spruces not affected by these insects. In opinion of scientists conducting studies in this unique forest, nature conservation organisations and environmentalist, the “anti-bark beetle battle” is nothing more than a pretext to retreat from the previously accepted conservation strategy, and start to gain a substantial income from the forest management in the Białowieża Forest.
An article entitled „Wolf recovery and population dynamics in Western Poland, 2001–2012”, co-authored by Dr. Sabina Nowak (Association for Nature „Wolf”) and Dr. Robert Mysłajek (Institute of Genetics and Biotechnology University of Warsaw) was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal "Mammal Research". Paper presents data on the wolf population number, reproduction and mortality in western Poland. Since the mid-twentieth century, under different management regimes (over 20 years of a wolf control program followed by 20 years of trophy hunting), wolves were absent or rare in Western Poland (hereinafter WPL). They became strictly protected in the whole country in 1998 and started to re-settle the vast forests ofWPL, far (376± 106.5 km) from the source population in eastern Poland. In 2002–2012, the population increased from several to approximately 140 wolves living in 30 family groups, with an annual rate of increase of 38 % (λ= 1.38, SE=0.10). The area of permanent occurrence increased from 600 to 10,900 km2, with an average density of 1.3 wolves/100 km2. The nearest neighbour distance between wolf territories decreased from 260 to 25 km. In 2001–2005, half of the settlement efforts by wolves failed after 1–2 years whereas in 2006–2009 only one fifth of newly settled wolves failed to persist >2 years. The number of wolves in groups varied from 2 to 9, and the mean group size increased from 1.8 in 2001 to 4.8 in 2012. The survival of pups from May to the end of November was 50 % (the mean number of pups per litter was 5.1 and 2.5, respectively). Of 28 wolves found dead, 65 % were killed by vehicles, 25 % were poached, and 7 % died because of diseases and natural factors. All road casualties were young wolves, most of them male (67 %), hit on roads on average 11.6 km from the centre of the nearest pack. The re-colonisation of WPL started from jump dispersal, which allowed wolves to establish packs in distant locations. As the recovery proceeded, the dispersal pattern shifted to being stratified, a mixture of diffusion and jump dispersal that resulted in the creation of packs in close vicinity to existing groups. After 12 years of re-colonisation, wolves in Western Poland occupied about 30 % of potential suitable habitats.
Marek Maćkowiak - member of our society, involved in the wolf monitoring in central Poland - lead a lecture about wolves in Toruń town. Event, held in the Hanza Cafe, attracted over 30 participants.