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MAMMALS IN ESTONIA

 
Mammals in Estonia

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Tour Calendar 2014...

Click here and read Terms and Conditions... 

Mammal Watching tour programmes can be viewed when choosing the name of trip from the right menu.



Lynx (Felis lynx) / Valeri Štšerbatõh

Estonian forests are renowned in Europe for their healthy populations of mammals with around 700-800 Lynx, over 150 Wolves, 500-600 Brown Bears and almost 20 000 Beavers – tremendous numbers for such a small country. In all, sixty-four species of mammals have been recorded in Estonia including several European rarities, the most endagered examples being the European Mink, several species of dormouse and the Flying Squirrel. In addition to the native residents three species have been introduced from outside the country: the Raccoon Dog, the American Mink and the Muskrat.

The Raccoon Dog is of particular interest. Originitating originally from north-east Asia, these handsome, thick-coated creatures were highly prized during the boom years of the fur trade which flourished during the first half of the 20th century, and many captive animals were reared on Russian fur-farms. As a result of escapees and deliberate introductions, feral Raccoon Dogs soon began to appear in northern Europe and was first reported from Estonia in the middle of the century. Since then the population has increased rapidly and they are now widespread all over the country although there is little precise information about the present distrubution or numbers. Raccoon Dogs have few enemies and do not appear to be susceptible to natural diseases therefore their high abundance exert a negative impact on ground-nesting birds, especially domestic hens. To keep the population of Raccoon dogs under the control, the Estonian Environmental Board has begun preparing a management plan. Although Raccoon Dogs are numerous, they are nocturnal by habit and the best chance of seeing one is during the hours of darkness along roadsides.


Racoon Dog
Racoon Dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides) / Valeri Štšerbatõh

The population  of Elk is estimated 12 000 and Wild Boars about 20 000 individuals. The best time for Elk-watching is definitely September and October  during the mating season. Another good period is April when the calves from the previous year will be evicted by adults before the next generation is born. Wild Boars are regularly provided with food by hunters throughout the year  therefore, watching them before sunset at feeding sites is quite easy.

In spite of the impressive number of mammals in Estonia, it is not always easy to see them. Abundance of forest habitats to aid concealment, nocturnal or crepuscular behavious, and a natural wariness instilled through centuries of hunting, combine to make many of our mammal inhabitants shy and elusive but with patience, and the skills of a naturalist guide, a visitor can be rewarded by memorable encounters with some of Europe’s rarest creatures.

Elk
Elk (Alces alces) / Valeri Štšerbatõh

Did you know?

  •  All three large carnivore species in Estonia – Brown Bear, Wolf and Lynx – are still managed as game animals.

Siberian Flying Squirrel

The Flying Squirrel is a bit smaller than the ordinary squirrel and a pride of Estonian forests – in Europe they can only be found in Estonia and Finland. It has received its name from hairy folds of skin between its fore and hind legs which help it to make jumps up to 35 metres from one tree to another. In recent decades intensive woodcutting has decreased the number of old forests and particulary old hollow aspen trees that are suitable for Flying Squirrels. Right now there are 80 known sites for Flying Squirrels that have been found in the North-East region of Estonia. 


Flying Squirrel (Pteromys volans) / Rainar Kurbel

Flying Squirrel (Pteromys volans) / Rainar Kurbel



The best time to observe Flying Squirrels are from May to early August when light nights gives better opportunities to see this nocturnal mammal. NB! Because Flying Squirrels are endangered, their observation and being near to their habitats is only allowed with local expert.

 


Did you know?
  • Flying Squirrel is the device of Estonian Fund for Nature
  • From the year ..., Estonian Fund For Nature (ELF)  has launched a donation campaign to raise money to buy necessary Flying Squirrel research equipment.

Brown Bear, Wolf, Lynx

Bears hibernate from the mid of November till the end of March. Wandering through forests at the beginning of April you can sometimes unexpectedly come upon bears freshly emerged from their winter sleep accompanied by young and still foolish cubs. The best time to observe and photograph the bears at feeding places is during May till mid of July, when the nights are bright. In August and in the beginning of September bears find enough food from the oat fields or collecting wildberries but return to feeding places again in September and October to gorge before  hibernation.


Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) / Sven Zacek


Wolf (Canis lupus) / Valeri Štšerbatõh

 

Many folklore tales relate to Wolves, a supreme predator that is reputed kill 30 sheep in one night just to instruct cubs in the skills of hunting. The Wolf however has already inhabited Estonia for  more than 10 000 years and hopefully will continue to do so for many more. Wolves are chiefly nocturnal animals and form packs from autumn till spring. Usually the pack consists of 5-7 individuals but bigger and more vital packs may contain 9-11 animals. In January-February, on  clear evenings you can often hear howling. Pairs are formed and cubs are born in April-May, The packs will assemble again in the middle of August, when cubs are taught to hunt and howl.


Wolf (Canis lupus) / Sven Zacek

Here you can listen to the incredible sound of howling wolf pups settled in the bog.

 

Unlike Brown Bear and Wolf, Lynx can be also be seen on the bigger islands of Estonia but seeing them is never easy because their territory may extend up to 200 square kilometres. Lynx hunt in the evening and early morning and unlike many other carnivores, rest at night. In Estonia the main prey for Lynx are rabbits, deer, rodents and birds. Their main rival appears to be the Wolf, because where there are many wolves are there few lynxes. February and March are good months for observing Lynx.


Lynx (Felis lynx) / Sven Zacek

Did you know?

  • The Polish WWF is hoping to relocate lynxes from Estonia to the Mazuri region in an effort to restore their presence. The Polish branch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is hoping that lynx from Estonia will save the Polish local lynx population.

Semi-aquatic mammals

Estonian forests and woodlands are well-known for their high number of semi-aquatic mammals. Almost 20 000 Beavers and 2 000 Otters are beyond doubt an exceptional number for such a small territory. Beavers are more than intriguing and sensitive animals with flat tails and lustrous fur. American Indians called the beaver the "sacred center" of the land because this species creates rich habitats for other mammals, fish, turtles, frogs, birds and ducks. Since beavers prefer to dam streams in shallow winding rivers and primeval forests, much of the flooded area becomes wetlands which are cradles of life with biodiversity. Also, the water downstream of dams is cleaner and requires less treatment. The latter occurs because silt collect upstream of older beaver dams, and toxins, such as pesticides, are broken down in the wetlands that beavers create.


European Beaver (Castor fiber) / Sven Zacek

Spotting Beavers is not too difficult in favourable weather conditions, but during storms and  heavy rain they may retreat  into their lodges for many days. The best time for beaver observation is from April to August.


European Mink (Mustela lutreola) / Jonathan Hall


The European Mink is a small carnivore with a semi-aquatic lifestyle. The Mink has been given the highest level of protected status in Estonian and is our rarest mammal. The efforts of the European mink conservation are based largely on the earlier activities of Tallinn Zoo. Since 1999 a long-term general project has been in progress, to organize the restoration and protection of European mink in Estonia, and promote the conservation of this species elsewhere in the world.  As the project activity plan foresees, the restoration of habitats will also impact upon the conservation of other vulnerable species.

Did you know?

  • European Mink is the most endangered mammal in Europe. The main reason why they are disappearing is because of the spread of the more aggressive American Mink. Estonia has the major role worldwide in protecting European Mink.

 Mammal

 


Mammals and Birds in Spring
Brown Bear Tracking and Watching
Bears & Orchids
Brown Bears & Birds
Mammals and Birds in Autumn

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