Our second full day in Slovakia began early with a 7am breakfast followed by a 250km drive to our next destination, Liptovský Hrádok, on the edge of the Low Tatras National Park.
The Low Tatras are Slovakia’s second oldest National Park, established in 1978. Like Poloniny, which we had visited yesterday, the hills here had trees growing right to their summits – unheard of in Scotland. However the forest structure was a lot more open, with patches of scrub and large clearings. There was a greater variety of tree species – a mixture of conifer and deciduous.
We were met by Robin Rigg from the Slovakian Wildlife Society – a small NGO (non-governmental organisation) which is actively involved in mammal research and public education and engagement. Robin is an expert on large mammal ecology, with a particular interest in brown bears, wolves and lynx. He took us on a guided walk through the forest in search of tracks and signs of mammal activity.
Along the way we had some fascinating discussions about large mammal ecology and behaviour, species reintroduction and managing human conflict.
Although we didn’t actually see any mammals we were fortunate to see quite a number of signs of various mammal activity.
We found footprints of fox, red and roe deer, pine marten, red squirrel, wolf and brown bear!
We also came across a badger latrine…
A wild boar’s scratching post and spa (watering hole)…
And admittedly not the work of a mammal but pointed out to us nonetheless, a tree that a Three-toed woodpecker had been feeding on…
After a great day in the field we retired to our new base for the remainder of the week, a wooden chalet style hotel in Kežmarok. Tomorrow we venture into the High Tatras.