What is wolf monitoring?

What does monitoring mean and why is it needed?

Wolf monitoring specifically means monitoring the wolf population (size, development, distribution area, etc.) with the aim of achieving and maintaining a favourable conservation status (FCS).

Monitoring is like a jigsaw puzzle that requires the assembly of many different pieces of evidence each of which must be evaluated, interpreted and finally inserted in the right place to produce a complete picture. Random sightings reported by the people from the area is important evidence that helps obtain as many puzzle pieces as possible. However, data such as tracks, scats, killed animals and markings are also collected in a targeted and systematic manner. Any evidence available is collected, evaluated and archived to obtain information on the size of the wolf population and the animals' distribution.

Furthermore, research and investigation such as studies on the wolves' foraging and feeding ecology, family relationships as well as on their habitat use and migration behaviour (telemetry) provide important detailed information about the behaviour, health status and distribution of the (central European) wolf population. Genetic and telemetric data can also be important elements when it comes to the distinction of individual, adjacent territories.

Under the Council Directive on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora (Article 11), the Federal Republic of Germany is obliged vis-à-vis the EU commission to monitor the conservation status of the species listed in Annex II and IV in Article 2 of the FFH directive and to report the development to the EU commission every six years. The set-up of a wolf monitoring system is thus a necessity.

The implementation of the monitoring system is the responsibility of the German federal states. The German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) initiated the definition of standardised monitoring criteria in Germany (monitoring standards for large carnivores in Germany in 2009 and for wolves, lynx and bears in Germany in 2015) to enable the collection of comparable data across state borders. These so-called SCALP criteria were initially established by a group of lynx experts in the Alpine countries to monitor and protect the lynx (status and conservation of the Alpine lynx population, www.kora.ch) with the aim of ensuring the monitoring data's cross-country comparability. The criteria have been adapted to the situation in Germany and extended to two other species (wolf and bear).

Apart from findings about the wolf population's conservation status, monitoring also provides important information for public relations work and herd protection. In the interest of the public and especially the animal keepers, the presence of wolves in a certain area can thus be communicated in a timely manner.

Implementation and evaluation

The monitoring data is collected and evaluated at German federal state level. But the monitoring structures set up and the effort made so far vary considerably from state to state. Some federal states have already established structures to ensure the use of expertise and exchange of information across state borders. Since 2009, a meeting has been held every year where the persons responsible for wolf and lynx monitoring in the individual states and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) come together. The participants present and evaluate all data collected in the individual states. As a result, they establish distribution maps for both species (retroactively for the previous monitoring year) that are agreed on a national level. The wolf monitoring year runs from 1 May to 30 April of the following calendar year. A year here means the wolf's biological year, namely from the birth of the pups to the end of their first year.

Standardised evaluation and interpretation of the data received and collected data is an important prerequisite for obtaining a clear picture showing the overall situation in Germany or even beyond the borders. This is the reason why the so-called SCALP criteria have been defined on behalf of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) (see above).

All data received and collected is classified according to its verifiability into categories (C – Category). There are three categories: from hard facts (C1) through to confirmed evidence (C2) and unconfirmed evidence (C3, a sighting, for example, that has not been documented and thus cannot be verified). The classification does not reflect on the professional competence of the person providing the evidence.

The data collected and evaluated is used to determine the area where wolves are residing and the size of their population. This determination, however, is only based on C1 facts and C2 evidence.

Please refer to the document "Monitoring von Wolf, Luchs und Bär in Deutschland" (Monitoring of Wolf, Lynx and Bear in Germany) published by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN-Skript 413, 2015) for more detailed information.

The following overview is a short introduction to individual monitoring methods and other fields of research.

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