"Where Poland's wild things are"

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"Where Poland's wild things are"

Post by Koa » Sat Feb 11, 2012 2:52 pm

All around, the woods look worse for wear after a messy night: clods of earth kicked up by foraging wild boar, chunks of bark stripped from the trees by elk, timber chomped up and dragged about by beavers.

Inspecting the damage is Romek a forester who helps visitors track the area's wildlife crouched by a patch of shattered ice on a frozen stream.

A pair of paw prints show where an animal fell through the ice before scrambling out and scampering off.

"Wilki," Romek says solemnly (it means wolves) before getting to his feet and bellowing out a long, sonorous wolf-howl.

It pays to be on good terms with the neighbours in this remote corner of Poland, one of the last tracts of wilderness in Europe where these animals still roam free.

Once upon a time, woodland like this covered the whole continent. If you could press a giant reset button on the European landscape, these forests are the template to which everything would return.

The monsters found here could hold their own against the big beasts of America and Africa. Even in Britain, you could expect to get trampled by a bison less than a thousand years ago, mauled by a wolf as late as the 17th century and finished off by wild boar well into the Middle Ages.

Nowadays the majority of Europe's wildlife could be classified PG but, in recent times, the woods of Romincka Forest have grown wilder. With the collapse of communism in Poland, industrial-scale forestry and farming have petered out and populations of wolf, boar, elk and even lynx have gradually shuffled back in.

To the west, one of the continent's last remaining herds of European bison is growing. A one-tonne wrecking ball of a beast, this animal can bulldoze anything in its path.

It has begun to snow as we follow the wolf tracks further into the forest big, fluffy, Narnia-esque snowflakes making the paw prints on the ground become fainter. Above us, pine trees sway in the wind, sending patches of sunlight scattering across the forest floor, their boughs creaking under the weight of the snowfall.

Romek tells me about a night when he howled to a wolf he spied pouncing on a wild boar, only to hear a howl returned from the darkness. "He passed by my car, so he must have known I was human," he adds.

However, those who live on the fringes of the forest aren't such keen admirers. Local farmers tell tales of one particularly cunning wolf that grabbed sheep by their necks and marched them one by one into the forest, where they were promptly devoured.
Read more: http://www.news.com.au/travel/world/whe ... z1m6nfbHsr
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