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What is Monitoring?

Map of Switzerland with marked sub-compartments of large carnivore management
Large carnivore compartments in Switzerland. Roman numerals I–V denote main compartments, lower case letter the sub-compartments.  © KORA GIS

Monitoring is the systematic surveillance of events and processes with the use of parameters (e.g. population size, habitat conditions, threats, acceptance), which offer information about the status of the system and changes over time. A reliable monitoring is based on science. KORA uses monitoring to register population size and distribution of lynx, bear, wolf, wildcat and golden jackal as well as their development over time. Moreover, KORA monitors the effect of the return of large carnivores on their wild prey. Additionally, the genetic status and health of the populations is observed in collaboration with a variety of institutions (Centre for Fish and Wildlife Health at the University of Bern, Senckenberg Research Institute, Laboratoire de la biologie de la conservation de l’Université de Lausanne). KORA also researches the acceptance of large carnivores by the public.

The Swiss Concepts for the management of lynx, wolf and bear, respectively, all stipulate that the development of the populations of these large carnivores, their distribution and abundance need to be observed and documented. KORA is tasked by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and by the Office for the Environment of the Principality of Liechtenstein to monitor the development of large carnivore populations with scientific methods. To this end, KORA closely cooperates with cantonal hunting offices and game wardens or large carnivore delegates.

Game management in Switzerland is principally a duty of the cantons. However, in the case of large carnivores, this would not make sense as (especially the smaller) cantons cannot represent a significant sub-unit of a large carnivore population. Consequently, Switzerland has been divided into so-called compartments for the monitoring and management of large carnivores (see Figure and Table): 5 main compartments (for wolf and bear) and 16 sub-compartments (for lynx). Within those compartments, KORA establishes reference areas for the quantitative and scientifically robust monitoring. Reference areas are a representative section of the main or sub-compartment. Reference areas are only required for the deterministic camera-trap monitoring of lynx.

Large carnivore compartments in Switzerland

NoCompartmentCantons/AreaSurface [km²]
IaSouthern JuraGE, NE, VD (Jura)3,145
IbNorthern JuraAG, BE (Jura), BL, BS, JU, SO4,497
IINorth-eastern SwitzerlandAI, AR, SG, SH, TG, ZH4,739
IIICentral Switzerland6,226
IIIaWestern Central SwitzerlandBE (East), LU, OW (West), NW (West)2,456
IIIbMid-Central SwitzerlandNW, OW (East), Uri (West), BE (East)1,338
IIIcEastern Central SwitzerlandGL, SG (Oberland), SZ, Uri (East), ZG2,432
IVWestern Swiss Alps11,381
IVaSimme-SaaneBE (Alps), FR, VD (Alps)3,999
IVbEastern Bernese OberlandBE (Alps)1,182
IVcNorth of the RhoneBE (Alps), FR, VD (Alps), VS1,542
IVdSouthern Lower ValaisVS2,185
IVeUpper ValaisVS2,473
VSouth-eastern Switzerland10,194
VbMisox-southern TicinoGR, TI1,198
VdMittelbündenGR, SG (south. Sarganserland), Liechtenstein2,672

A camera trap is shown from the front.
Cameras, which automatically capture animals and other objects passing in front of them on picture and/or video are called camera traps. Nowadays, they are used all over the globe for the monitoring of animal populations. © Fridolin Zimmermann

The intensity and form of the monitoring differs depending on the development of the population. Large carnivores are secretive and can travel fast and far. Moreover, all populations are still in a dynamic phase, ranging from occasional immigrants (bear) to established populations that have already existed for a while. As such, the monitoring of large carnivores is demanding. There is neither a single method that can be used in the same fashion for one species everywhere, nor one that can answer all questions. Consequently, the most suitable methods must be selected for the specific circumstances. Usually, a combination of different approaches and methods is necessary. The mostly huge distribution areas of large carnivores do not allow for monitoring every area with the same intensity or the same (robust) methods. Thus, a spatial and temporal stratification of the monitoring is often the only way to ensure a target-oriented, practical and affordable long-term monitoring. At a national level, the goal is to detect new occurrences, to survey the development of the distribution, the caused damages, as well as the genetic status and health of the populations. For this purpose, chance observations, mortalities, and damages are recorded continually. Additionally, camera trap images (lynx, wolf and bear) and genetic samples (wolf and bear) are sampled opportunistically. At the level of the reference or study area, the goal is to gain information on population size and demography. Due to restrictions based mainly on the different ways of living and behaviours, species-specific monitoring methods must be deployed. For lynx, population size and density is estimated in the reference areas every 3–4 years with the capture-recapture method through the use of camera traps. For wolves, we use genetics combined with an opportunistic camera-trap monitoring to estimate pack sizes and number of pups. The application of a variety of methods allows KORA to compare the results and aids with the interpretation of the data.

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