Have you ever seen a wolf?
Honeyguide’s Poland host and leader, Artur Wiatr, has sent us this account, writing in December 2016.
Once one of the most elusive of Europe’s predators, as the population of wolves grows the answer ‘yes’ to this question is more common than it used to be.
That is especially so when you live in north-east Poland, near the Białowieża primeval forest, Biebrza Wetlands and other wilderness (and some civilisation too, writes Artur).
The population of wolves is stable in both places and tending to grow. There are up 25 wolves (forming four packs) on the Polish side of Białowieża Forest and up to 30 wolves (forming five packs) in Biebrza Marshes and the neighbouring forest.
How to see a wolf
In general it is very difficult to meet a wolf. Your chances grow in winter when they mate. Apart from howling one can find often footprints and other signs of evidence e.g. the remaining parts of a deer or elk.
A chance meeting is the easiest way. The more time you spent out in nature the better chance you have. Does this work in reality? My answer is ‘yes’. Over the last 20 years I have seen wolves – but only few times. The accidental strategy is the easiest.
A close encounter
Some winters ago in February, my Swiss friends visited me hoping to watch wolves. After short stay in Biebrza wetlands we went to Białowieża Primeval Forest. One evening after dinner we went for a short walk out, hoping for some luck.
We sat under a tourist shelter just past Białowieża village. It was not too cold by our standards – just few degrees under 0°C – with very thin snow cover and a bit of light coming from the moon, which was covered with clouds.
After 10 minutes of silence we could hear a creature walking towards us on the other side of the road, gently rustling leaves on the ground. Something went across a ditch, crashing through thin ice cover.
The sound of claws on asphalt was coming towards us. Suddenly it stopped just 10 metres in front of us. Upsss! What is it? It the soft moonlight we could see a silhouette of … something.
After some seconds I turned on the flashlight and could see the bright eyes of a wolf. He looked at us for a moment, probably asking himself, ‘What are you doing here, people?’ He turned around and slowly walked away into the woods.
Next morning we could read the wolf footprints and re-live this unforgettable moment.
Artur Wiatr, December 2016