Working with Wolves

Fig 1: Wolf Track

Emma Brid Dennehy talks about her Work Experience in Spain with Wolves.

From the summer months of July to August I took an optional BEES module, known as the BL4003 biology work placement module, and travelled to the region of Galicia in north-west Spain to gain work experience with A.RE.NA. Asesores en Recursos Naturales S.L. (Consulters on Natural Resources), a private consulting company founded in 1997.

The company’s main work focuses on the Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus) and all aspects dealing with the wolf, such as their ecology, management, and conservation. A.RE.NA. carries out projects not only in Galicia but also in Asturias, Castilla y León among other regions. Regional governments and national parks, such as Los Picos de Europa National Park are the company’s main clients, and on occasions private companies, e.g. wind farm companies, seek their advice on issues dealing with wolves.

Fig 2: Wolf with Collar

The present project that began at the end of June is one focused on wolves and wind farms. The aim of this project is to investigate if at present wind farms are affecting the distribution of wolf populations in different areas of West Galicia. In order to examine wolf movement in the areas of interest wolves are trapped throughout the year excluding the breeding season and their movements will be monitored until sufficient data has been collected.

Before any traps can be set, we search areas of forestry, scrublands and farmlands for high levels of wolf activity. The signs of wolf occurrence we look for include tracks (Fig 1), scats and scratch marks.

Fig 3: Teeth Exam

Once we are satisfied that an area of interest has an adequate level of wolf activity, we begin in the trap setting process. Traps are checked every morning and at dusk. It can take some time before a wolf is successfully trapped, and on some occasions we found that a wolf had been trapped but managed to escape. However, patience pays off when a trap has succeeded to trap and hold a wolf.

When a wolf has been caught, the collaring and examination of the wolf can begin. The wolf is tranquilised first and given time to relax and fall asleep (Fig 2).

Fig 4: Taking Blood

The wolf is then collared with a Televilt TVP positioning collar (Model Tellus) and examinations of the animal’s health and condition begins. The wolf is weighed, the temperature of the wolf is recorded and the body and limbs are measured. The sex is determined and the animal’s general health is noted. Photos of the teeth (Fig 3) are taken which help in estimating the age of the animal. Blood samples are also taken and will be tested for immunological and genetic purposes in the future (Fig 4). Once the examinations have finished the wolf is given an antidote to the tranquiliser, and within several minutes runs off (Fig 5).

To date four wolves have been collared since the first of July and their movements are being closely monitored by A.RE.NA.

Fig 5: Wolf Running Off

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  1. Pingback: Working With Wolves – Part 2 | School of BEES Research Blog

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