Wildlife biology is a matter of more and more new technology: a little wolf droppings or a strand of hair in the laboratory today reveals who it came from. Feathered transmitters track birds across entire continents. Intelligently placed cameras provide informational images, sometimes from Photography traps for nocturnal animals, Times Overlooking the shoulder of Saqr Shaheen for hunting.
Slowly, but the perception creeps into that newer technology can shine even more beautifully when complemented by an ancient cultural technique – traceability. “There’s no use in the best wildlife camera if you don’t know exactly where to install it,” says Stefanie Argow.
Argow is one of the few professional trackers in Germany. Anyone who goes out with it – even if it’s only in a large park like Wuhlheide in Berlin – sees nature with different eyes: There, a well-sized hole in the lawn is where deer rest. The fir is rubbed, exposed in some places because wild boars rub against it after its blurring. Here is the deer crossing, there is the raccoon toilet. On the right are traces of a fox’s claw in the mud, and on the left are the scratch marks of a woodpecker that has scratched its foot into the trunk of a pine tree to scrape off the bark pieces with its beak.
Stephanie Argo earns her strength through her ability to properly read the traces and signs that animals leave behind. Last year, for example, I tracked all the badger structures into a certain area in North Brandenburg, because residents there had to be pre-registered for a new road to be built. Even normal people will find most of the animal’s large dens with a little research. In most cases, however, they cannot say for sure whether the pit belonged to a fox, badger or raccoon dog, abandoned or still inhabited. Argow can do this, she knows that a badger paw has five balls of toes and not four balls like a fox. One can distinguish the somewhat similar prints of the raccoon and the fox dog through the fact that the raccoon dog has distinctly spread toes and thick claws.
In the definition notebook – very sharp and in a clear contrast between black and white – this is still halfway understandable, even for inexperienced users. But outside, in real nature, the prints are often patchy, faint, and washed out so much that the average person only sees the presence of an animal there. Perhaps not that, but Argov has identified all badger burrows in the area. Then gaming cameras were set up later. Without the tracker working, the mission would have taken longer despite the latest technology.
Trackers find the cracks of the shy lynx
Thanks to her knowledge, she has now also found her way into everyday university life: at the University of Potsdam, she regularly offers day trips in which she introduces the basics of track reading. Each year, she travels with students to Slovakia for just under a week to track down large predators such as bears, wolves and lynxes.