the story behind the expedition
The wolf (Canis lupus) is the most widespread carnivore in the northern hemisphere, living from the iced tundra to semi-desert areas, passing through the temperate forests of Central Eurasia and the Americas.
For thousands of years that men and wolves have a love/hate relationship culminating, during the 20th century, in a partial extinction of the species in most of the developed countries. But there were some resistants…
Despite wolves’ decrease, the Iberian Peninsula was one of the few strongholds for this carnivore, in a landscape where wolves and men are bound to live together.
Today in Portugal, wolves inhabit an area that is only 20% of its original distribution, being restricted to the northern mountainous areas of the country. Last national wolf census, 15 years ago, reported a population between 200 and 400 wolves in the wild and around 60 packs.
The Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus) is a fully protected species by Portuguese law, being totally forbidden to kill, trap or disturb its populations. Despite this, illegal human persecution occurs due to wolves’ damages on livestock, which constitute 70% to 80% of this predator´s diet.
There is an enormous necessity to update wolf numbers and distribution in Portugal so that conservation measures can be successfully implemented. That´s the reason behind the Iberian Wolf Expedition.
The expedition will take place at Northeastern Portugal, where about 25% of the Portuguese wolf population inhabit. Our monitoring range covers all Vinhais and Bragança counties, with an extent of 2.250km2.
The landscape is formed by a sequence of rounded peaks (438m to 1481m) and steep valleys, where pristine freshwater rivers meander. Human presence and activities are deeply connected to nature, producing a mosaic of oak forests, chestnut trees, mountain shrubs, riparian forest, meadows or cereal land.
The wildlife in this area is very rich and diverse, where around 250 species of vertebrate inhabit and a myriad of invertebrates make their home.
The main goal of this expedition is to map wolf presence in the 2.250km2 of the study area, delimit existing wolf packs and confirm breeding sites. As secondary goals we want to map wolves’ wild prey distribution and relative abundance - roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), red deer (Cervus elaphus) and wild boar (Sus scrofa) - as well as domestic prey’s availability.
The study area is divided into 90 5kmx5km cells, all of them surveyed each season. Survey techniques include sign transects (scats, footprints), camera trapping and oral inquiries. Sample scats are collected for food and genetic analysis, giving us insights from their movements, kinship and diet. Camera trapping will help us confirm wolf presence and number, giving at the same time information about the distribution and abundance of wild ungulates. During summer, howling stations will be use to confirm breeding sites and pup numbers.
The expedition members will play a crucial part in the success of the project, working closely with the team researchers, allowing to cover a larger area.
A typical expedition day
6:30 - 8:00 Rest time or early morning fauna survey
8:00 - 8:30 Breakfast
8:30 - 8:45 Briefing on the day´s work
8:45 - 9:00 Leaving for the field
9:30 - 12:30 Field work (line transects, camera trapping)
12:30 -13:30 Lunch on the field and rest time
13:30 - 17:00 Field work
17:30 - 18:30 Data management and day´s overview
19:00 - 20:30 Dinner at local partner
21:00 - 00:00 Relax time or night survey
Expedition participants will stay at facilities from Parque Biológico de Vinhais (PBV). Depending on the time of the year and the number of participants, there are two options: Rio de Fornos Mansion-House and PBV Bungalows.
Rio de Fornos Mansion-House:
A fully recoverd 17th century manor at Rio de Fornos village (2km from Vinhais). It has 2 double-rooms and 4 bunk-beds rooms (8, 10 and 2x14 pax). A fully equiped kitchen is available, dinning room, lounge room, showers and several WC.
Located at the PBV area, T2, T3 and T4 wooden bungalows with WC and kitchen are available.
Grupo Lobo is an independent non-profit NGO (non-governamental organization) which was founded in 1985 with the objective to conserve the wolf and its ecosystem in Portugal.
Grupo Lobo has helped draft the Wolf Protection Law and its work goes from field monitoring projects to sustainable herding practices.
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Vinhais Biological Park is a public equipment managed by Vinhais Municipality and it is located inside Montesinho Natural Park, one of the most diverse biological areas in Portugal.
Main valences includes:
- natural and cultural interpretation
- nature conservation
- ecotourism development
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