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Instytut Biologii Ssaków Polskiej Akademii Nauk, Białowieża


Wolf (Canis lupus) – moose relationships in Biebrza National Park

Project leader: Włodzimierz Jędrzejewski

Research team

Team leader: Professor Dr. Włodzimierz Jędrzejewski (MRI PAS)
Participants: Prof. Dr. Bogumiła Jędrzejewska, Tomasz Borowik, Marcin Churski, Adrian Tołkacz (MRI PAS)
Outside participants: Tadeusz Sidor, Wojciech Dudziuk (Biebrza National Park)
Contact person: Włodzimierz Jędrzejewski (wjedrzej@zbs.bialowieza.pl)

Background to the research

Biebrza National Park (the largest national park in Poland, ~600 km2 of marshes and wet forests) is the unique place in Central Europe, where moose (Alces alces) is a dominating species in ungulate community. Other ungulates are: red deer (Cervus elaphus), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), and wild boar (Sus scrofa). They coexist with populations of wolf (Canis lupus), and lynx (Lynx lynx). This allows for studying the population dynamics, competition and interactions between the large predators and ungulates.
Competition between red deer and moose is considered to be a factor negatively influencing the density and reproduction rate of moose population. On the other hand, predation by wolves and lynx is expected to have stronger limiting effect on red deer than on moose population and, therefore, it may promote moose dominance in ungulate community.
Competition between moose and other ungulate species may also be mitigated by different habitat preferences of each species. For instance, moose are typical inhabitants of marshes and pine stands, whereas red deer prefer deciduous forests.
Additional info: Biebrza National Park is an attractive place for birdwatchers. The guild of raptors includes: White-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga), Lesser Spotted Eagle (A. pomarica), and Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus). Passerine species endangered in the global scale – Aquatic Warbler (Acrocephalus paludicola) – is present.

Goals and assumptions

The project aims at assessing the roles of predation and habitat preferences in shaping the spatial distribution, densities, and population dynamics of ungulates (especially moose) in Biebrza National Park. Specifically, the following subjects are investigated:
1) Habitat utilisation and preference in ungulates.
2) Population size and spatial structure of wolves and lynx.
3) Feeding habits and predation impacts by wolves.

Methods

Methods involved in the project are:
1) pellet counting and snow tracking of ungulates on transects,
2) records of visual observations of ungulates,
3) records of wolf and lynx tracks, scats, kill remains, and other signs of activity,
4) snow tracking of large carnivores,
5) collecting wolf and lynx scats for diet analysis and genetic sampling,
6) recording of wolf howling.
7) records of dead ungulates, tissue samples and bone marrow samples.
For estimating ungulate densities, driving census is carried out once during winter in selected habitats.

Relevant reading material

No published data from the project are yet available. Other studies on wolf-ungulate relationships by the Project Leader include:

Jędrzejewski W, Jędrzejewska B, Zawadzka B, Borowik T, Nowak S, Mysłajek RW. 2008. Habitat suitability model for Polish wolves based on long-term national census. Animal Conservation 11: 377-390.

Jędrzejewski W, Schmidt K, Theuerkauf J, Jędrzejewska B, Selva N, Zub K, Szymura L. 2002. Kill rates and predation by wolves on ungulate populations in Białowieża Primeval Forest (Poland). Ecology 83: 1341-1356.

© 2011 Instytut Biologii Ssaków PAN w Białowieży

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