AT THE beginning of March, conservationists and forestry workers in the Tatras National Park (TANAP) found several dead chamois. Head of TANAP administration Pavol Majko and deputy head of the Štátne Lesy TANAP state forestry company Marián Šturcel agreed that the numbers were not alarming and did not represent anything unusual, much less a threat to the chamois population in the mountains. Šturcel told the SITA newswire that the total number of chamois who died recently is large when compared to previous years, but that the population of these animals is also its greatest for the last 20 years.
According to the latest census, around 1,000 chamois now live in the Tatras, and about a dozen dead animals were found at the end of February and beginning of March. In previous years it was normal to find about two or three dead chamois at the end of the winter – but at that time they numbered only 300 or 400 in total. The remains of six chamois were found in the Važecká valley, three in the Mengusovská valley, one in the Žiarska valley and one in Veľká Studená valley.
According to Majko, the chamois in the Vážska valley were probably killed by a lynx – conservationists have repeatedly monitored what they say is a particularly large example in the area. Thanks to a photo-trap, they have also identified another lynx nearby. Majko stressed, however, that predators have a crucial function in nature, as they hunt weak and sick individuals. Šturcel said that not all the chamois were killed by predators: one bore no signs of a violent death and may have died of exhaustion or from a fall during an avalanche. Specimens from all the dead chamois were taken for examination; the remains of two of them will be exhibited in the TANAP Museum.
The footprints of various predators – not just lynx, but foxes, wolves, eagles and even a bear – were found around several of the chamois remains. Bears normally wake from hibernation in spring and start searching for carrion to eat. Majko said by early March his colleagues had already recorded three bears moving around in the Tatras. However, he told SITA that most bears were emerging much later this year than in 2012, due to the weather and the amount of snow in the mountains. Male bears are the first to emerge, as females often stay in their dens to care for the youngest cubs.
25. Mar 2013 at 15:30 | Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská