Biff, Hanna and me spent the last week in Slovenia in the search for wolves. While we were working hard during the day for European Wilderness Society, we worked even harder each night, driving around on dirt roads in deep forests in hope to hear a wolf. All this was a part of the annual wolf monitoring where we volunteered for four nights in a row. I’ve done it last year and was lucky enough to hear an entire wolf pack with pups, so I thought I’d try out my luck once again.
Sightseeing on the way
On the first evening we drove to Postojna to meet the other volunteers and the coordinator. We received some nice presents and food, as well as were told in which quadrants we should do the monitoring. After planning our route we drove off.
As we still had some time before it was dark enough to start with monitoring, we stopped by Predjama castle. It’s a castle built in front of a cave with many secret passages out through the cave. It is also a place of many interesting medieval stories. Despite living in Slovenia I’ve never seen it, or at least I might have been too young to remember, so I was very happy to visit it as well. It is a magnificant sight. But even more magnificant was the food we had in a nearby restaurant. Baked polenta with fresh grilled porcini and cheese, delicious. If you ever happen to be around, I really recommend!
Afterwards, we drove to our five quadrants. At each, we did three series of four howls, with breaks of silence in between. We were driving from one quadrant to the next, often getting lost on the narrow forest roads, but with no luck – no wolves around. At least we spotted two deer and some frogs, though. At about 1.30 am we finally arrived home, very much looking forward to sleep.
We repeated the same monitoring procedure on the following three nights, again with no luck. Wolves are evasive animals and the territory where the monitoring was done was very large, so the chances of coming into contact with them are always low. However, even the howling experience itself is good. When you’re so far away from settlements the view on the night sky is absolutely amazing, I could easily just stay at some howling spots for the entire night just star-gazing.
Additionally, the monitoring requires you to spend quite a bit of time just standing completely silently, listening to the sounds of the forest. The forests can be surprisingly loud – at one point, we heard a few dormice close to us, and the coughing sound they make was rather funny. Furthermore, howling gives me a feeling of being close to nature in a special way. When I howl, it sounds and feels very primeval, very natural, like a sort of a spiritual connection to the nature around me. Like I’m sending a message to the beautiful stars above me, calling the wolves as my brothers. It’s hard to explain, but it feels special.