Documentation and collection of evidence (tracks, scats, kills)
Every animal leaves traces. Especially if having settled in a certain area, wolves leave obvious traces in the form of tracks, scats (faecal matter) and killed wild animals. Their presence does not remain hidden to experienced observers. Searching for and documenting such evidence is thus the most important indirect method of providing evidence of the wolf's presence and successful reproduction (pups) and of estimating the number of wolf territories in an area.
Wolf scats also provide researchers with plenty of other important information about the wolves' foraging and feeding ecology (please refer to Foraging and feeding ecology) or about their family relationships (please refer to Genetic investigations), for example.
Use of camera trapping
A camera trap is a remotely activated camera that is usually mounted on a tree to capture images of wildlife. It is equipped with an infrared sensor that detects any motion in front of the trap and triggers the camera to take a photo.
Camera traps are ideal for gaining an insight into the wild animals' way of life without disturbing them. As human presence is not necessary all the time, disturbance effects and the amount of work involved are minimised.
Camera traps can help researchers find out if one wolf or several wolves are present in a certain area, if wolves in the area concerned have already reproduced and, if so, how many pups have been born. The photos can only provide evidence of the minimum number of pups as it cannot be ensured that they show all of the animals. The use of camera traps can also supply data about minimum wolf pack sizes and the distinction between neighbouring territories.
Photos taken by a camera trap can also help recognise individual animals. Of course, this is only possible if the animal has a particular characteristic such as a handicap or a tracking collar. If wolves urinate to mark the place in front of the camera, these photos can be used to identify the parent animals, as they are the only wolves in the pack who set marks in the territory.
Film recordings are notably used to document pups, determine their number and sex as well as to obtain information about the wolves' social behaviour. Every year, films are made of individual packs within the scope of the Saxon monitoring programme. Since particularly adult wolves are extremely wary and perceive human presence very quickly, it takes a lot of preparation, patience and experience to film animals without disturbing their natural behaviour.
Since the wolf is a strictly protected species, it is forbidden to hunt the animals, to deliberately disturb them during the period of breeding and rearing and/or to deteriorate or destroy their breeding sites or resting places (FFH directive, BNatSchG). Consequently, an application has to be submitted to the respective nature conservation authority before wolves may be filmed deliberately. Making a film of a random wolf encounter, however, does not violate this rule. Even such film recordings are enormously valuable information. Our office or other competent institutions therefore thankfully accept information about such material or the material itself.
The film material also helps support the public relations work of the contact office "Wolves in Saxony" in giving the public an understanding of wolves' (social) behaviour.
Films and photos from camera traps are also used to exclude/recognise any potential hybridisation at an early stage.