TRACKS IN THE SNOW
This year’s first snowfall has painted the mountains in Rijeka’s hinterland white providing the employees of Public Institution “Priroda” with an opportunity to see which animals move through the mountains at this time of year. Snow tracking is a method that provides insight into the habits of forest animals. Almost every winter the “Priroda” employees use this method to monitor the snow-covered regions in area HR5000019 of the European Ecological Network NATURA 2000, established for the purpose of protecting large carnivores.
After the first snowfall we went looking for tracks along the transect Platak-Velo Snižno (Veliko Snježno) – Javornica – Škurina. The snow was right for tracking. On Platak it was about five cm deep and as we climbed higher, the depth of the snow layer became deeper, reaching more than 30 cm on the pass below Škurina. As it was cold, bora weather (although we couldn’t feel the bora wind in the forest), the mountain range above Platak was covered in bora clouds – locally called brvi or brvine – from which small snowflakes were falling. The trees in the zone of bora clouds were also covered in frost that morning, and there was still quite a lot of fresh snow on the branches of trees in the pre-alpine zone. The snow seemed to be falling in gentle cascades, emphasizing the feeling of winter.
The diversity and number of the tracks we spotted was not especially large. In multiple places we noticed some ten tracks made by martens and several fox tracks, and in two places we came across boar tracks. On the split trunk of a beech tree that had fallen over the path we spotted some hairs, probably from a cat (maybe a lynx?), that were caught on the tree trunk as the animal squeezed by it. However, we guessed the animal had passed before the snow had fallen because there were no tracks to be seen around the broken tree. The animal tracks we collect in this way can be useful in helping us decide where to place camera traps (yet another important method of monitoring carnivores in the County of Primorje and Gorski Kotar).
Marko Randić and Marko Modrić
Photo 2. Boar track on the forest road Veliko Snježno-Škurina (Photo by Marko Modrić)