Wolf Traps? Only photographic!

Location: Merufe – Portugal,
Story by: José Afonso

© © Marta Barata / ANP_WWF Portugal


José Afonso worked and lived in Canada, but is now in Portugal where he intends to stay, not least because his parents and a small son are here. He is a winegrower and is a member of a regional hunting association. Hunting came, as a child, under the influence of his grandfather and later he took the hunting license, having even hunted in Canada.

”I always liked big game more but when I came back, after having hunted in Canada, it was complicated because at the beginning we were just a few people hunting wild boar, but in the meantime there was a change in legislation and unlike when a quote was taken to hunt and only who really liked this type of hunting practiced it, now anyone can hunt, even if they don’t know anything about this specific type of hunting.”


José Afonso lives in a region where a large carnivore lives – the Iberian Wolf. He feels that in the past hunting was a time that promoted more conviviality than the motivation to kill. In addition to hunting for food, taking care to maintain a certain balance, even to ensure that there was something to hunt for the following year.

“Even today I feel a lot of respect for what I hunt, and I eat everything I hunt.
Nowadays there is a lot of hunting to make numbers, to put photos on Facebook and to go to the coffee shop to brag. It’s a very different kind of culture, for example from Canada. There are rules and rules that are followed and enforced. There is inspection, there are heavy fines for violators. ‘’

José would like to feel that these new generations would have more concerns about the future and, however, it is something he does not feel. On the contrary, the younger ones do not seem to care about the sustainability of the ecosystem or do not even respect it, which looks weird.

‘’The balance is ideal, and there is space for everyone. It is necessary to know how to keep the balance and that is the biggest lack I feel in the hunting sector. ‘’

According to José, his grandfather knew that if he killed everything, the following year he would have nothing to eat and he watched this worry all his life. And, perhaps also because he lived in Canada, he kept this way of seeing things and increased his concern for the future.

‘’The truth is that in my grandfather’s time, the wolves were in the mountains and did not come so far down here. ‘’
According to José‘’ the image of the wolf in his region is not bad, but here the feeling is that more money is spent on bureaucracy and studies than is spent in the field. There are a lot of people here who think there should be more work in the field, and the wolf’s attacks had to be simply taken over. ‘’

’A person who has 4 or 5 sheep and the wolf comes and eats them all, we have to put ourselves in this person’s place, right? And just because you can’t follow a protocol, or have difficulty filling out a paper, you don’t get anything. And then there are other cases in which it wasn’t even an wolf attack but because people know how to ‘cheat the system’ they receive large compensation. Unfortunately, a lot of these still happens in Portugal.’’

José ends up giving us an example that he considers revealing the lack of preparation in his country:

‘’One day some friends called me because they had found a wolf in a noose in the middle of a path. We hurried to call the authorities to come and rescue him. The time it took was ridiculously long. When they arrived, they had only a pair of pliers as equipment, completely unprepared. With all the time this took it turned out to be too late and the wolf ended up dying ‘’


The question that this winegrower from Merufe poses is:

‘there is money in this country for so many programs to protect this species, but isn’t there a prepared brigade that can respond in a timely manner and with adequate material for a situation like this? example that there is a lot to be changed/improved. ‘’
“Another bad example in my view refers to the boar density correction stamps, that is, a hunting association requests a stamp and it is given to them, but nobody comes to see it first.
Hunting lacks management and for José, one mount a year, at the proper time, is adequate, even to pay taxes on private land to the State. But he emphasizes that ‘’it is not supposed to go about killing in May, season for female’s wolves pregnant or with young cubs. ‘’

Monitoring with camera traps

Monitoring with camera traps is used in all parts of the world to detect animal species and individuals living in a certain area. Depending on the species, the camera traps enable viable data about the presence of certain species as well as their behaviour and reproduction cycles to be collected. The cameras are powered by batteries and the pictures need to be downloaded regularly. They are usually installed in a fixed location and triggered by motion and/or heat sensors when animals pass. For species such as the lynx, which can be clearly identified by their individual fur pattern, and which are territorial, the camera traps can also be used to count the number of individuals and observe the development of the population.


There is no lack of curious stories for José Afonso. One of them from a fellow hunter who came from Barcelos and who after a moment of hunting that marked him, sat down, called him and said:

“José Afonso the hunting for me is over, I saw a wolf in my life”.

José has also seen some wolves in the wild in his life, but there was a moment that marked him and he has a photo to remember him.
He says:

“I was in the jeep and I saw the wolf go by, I got out of the jeep with the camera in my hand, he was walking with his back to me, I screamed and at that moment he turns to me and lets me take this photo ‘’ reports José Afonso and kept ‘’then he went on his way.”

He says that this encounter changed a lot and increased his respect for everything he hunts.
José defends that a good hunter has a lot of respect for the wolf. But he admits that it happened once before, the death of a wolf while riding. He says that, at the time, no one realized what had happened because they were at different spots. However, a subsequent investigation led to the finding of the culprit who ended up confessing to the crime.

“And do you know the end of this story? He even laughed for what he paid – €300.”
‘’It amazes me because in Canada I remember a hunter who had a license to hunt a deer, hunted two, had a $90,000 fine. This one guy doesn’t do another mistake like this again.”

For José it is difficult to watch these cultural differences, but he does what he can. But it’s not always easy, has a person that found itself in a situation where he deactivating an illegal tie and being threatened by whoever set it up.
For a while he even made maps with coordinates of various loops to help SEPNA (authorities) and it never saw any result from it.

“I am already known for this position of not accommodating myself to this lack of legislation, of supervision, of measures that could work. And for undoing ties and trying to do something that you think might make a difference.
Hunters could be used more to help with the Iberian wolf conservation plan, because we are on the ground and we know how things go. And we know the ecosystem well. It is essential to stop stealing, the use of bows is not hunting.”

For José Afonso it would be important to set an example and, until that happens, impunity will generate more furtivism.

“I hunt the image, more and more, I’m even waiting until now for new traps…photographic. I really enjoy shooting (with photos) wildlife. “
“I am lucky to live in a place where I hear wolves quite often. And I love hearing them as much as seeing them. One of the things I like most in life is being in the mountains at night, even alone, and even listening to the wolves. “