Grey wolves and European bison in winter
In the Bieszczady mountains of Poland, bordering the frontiers of the national park, there is a reliable chance and opportunity to observe and photograph members of a wolf pack consisting of up to 17 individuals. This is from a purpose built hide perfectly designed for photographers. With luck, these shy, iconic carnivores will go about their business around you, giving you a unique insight into their lives. At the same time giving you some of the best opportunities to photograph these rare and elusive predators; something nearly impossible elsewhere in Europe. A three day extension in the vicinity of the hide allows you to photograph the amazing Bieszczady landscapes as well as looking for Europe’s heaviest land mammal: the European Bison.
Bieszczady – sanctuary to some of Europe’s rarest wildlife
The relatively unknown Bieszczady mountains are a wild and remote wilderness and home to some exciting wildlife. Located in the extreme south-eastern corner of Poland the area lies within the UNESCO East Carpathian Biosphere Reserve which covers over 2,000 square kilometres. During winter time and early spring, this sparsely populated region, is little visited by resident Polish people.
The wolf hide is located around a 4 – 5 hour drive from Krakow airport or 2 – 3 hour drive from Rzeszow airport. The first and last day must be planned as transfer days. Once there, driving from the local hotel (base camp) to a rural village (meeting point) before sunset takes you about 35 minutes. From there onwards you will be taken to the hide by a local guide in his 4WD vehicle. After he has baited the site you will be alone in the hide area during the day. Although wolf pack members can show up at any time they mostly appear during early mornings and evenings. Once it gets dark the local guide will pick you up at the hide and return you to the hotel where dinner is served. The hotel has WIFI and the rooms are en suite, a bar with local beers and other drinks are available to you. The second and third days it is the same procedure going to the wolf hide. Directions to an area where bisons can be found will be given if you choose to go for this tailor made tour. The hide offers space for several photographers but shifting to different areas/targets it is an option for a group of four to six people too. So days when people are in the hide the others can go for bison or landscape photography. The following days you just rotate.
Wolves in Poland
Wolves, have been a protected species in Poland since 1998. According to official data the total number of wolves in Poland is 1,400 individuals with their distribution mostly in the North Eastern, Eastern, and Southern parts of the country. Although only a few individuals were recorded in central and western Poland they have, since 2005, begun to resettle Western Poland, graduall re-colonising forests where they were extirpated by people many years ago.
The Polish wolf population makes up the western-most range of a large, continuous Eastern European wolf population, which has retained a high level of genetic diversity. In other European countries where wolves occur for example Italy, France, Spain or Sweden, populations are more isolated and are limited in numbers and genetic diversity. Poland, due to its location in the central part of Europe, is one of the most important refuges of this carnivore and is an important source of individuals dispersing to regions where wolves were eradicated many years ago.
Studies conducted in Poland reported that wolves require vast areas to function successfully: in the Carpathians territories can be 100-150 km2. The majority of Polish wolf territories include forests where intensive logging, tourism, and recreation can all impact negatively on wolf populations. Another more recent and serious threat to the wolves and their habitat and migration corridors has been the rapid development of transportation infrastracture to ensure the effective connection of Poland with other EU countries through the TET (Trans-European Transportation) network.