Latvia has not had a bear since the late 1920s. As in Lithuania, Latvian hunters have managed to completely kill the local population. “There are jokes that even Latvia’s national epic is called ‘The Bear Killer’.” Estonia has only one bear habitat – Ida-Viru County, which is also the only part of bear country that extends into the Baltic States. It covers Leningrad oblast and Karelia in Russia, âsaid Valdmann.
Therefore, the fate of bears in Estonia depends in part on what happens on the other side of the border. “These habitats vibrate. When the population is strong, it spreads to less favorable areas. There are a lot of bears now, and they go all the way to Latvia, which is not the case if the numbers are low. . It’s that simple.” said the associate professor.
At worst, there were only a few dozen bears in Ida-Viru County. Even though it is difficult to accurately estimate the number of bears in the wild, recent tally suggests that there may be around a thousand bears in Estonia. The population is larger than it has been in the past 100 to 150 years.
“It is a coincidence that the range currently coincides with the Estonian borders. We are talking about a gradient that extends slightly as far as Latvia. There are more bears in Ida-Viru counties. and LÃ¤Ã¤ne-Viru, JÃµgeva and JÃ¤rva counties and even Harju county to some extent. There have never been many bears in southern Estonia, “added Valdmann.
Although Latvia has suitable habitats for bears, there are not enough bears in Estonia for the range to extend into Latvia. “There is no physical reason why the bears in Latvia couldn’t continue to move south. And if the Latvians don’t shoot them, they might even stay there,” the zoologist suggested.
It is also possible that bears will return to Estonia if the region is not suitable for them. Wolf packs also freely cross borders.
Valdmann said it is still not clear what constitutes the most favorable habitat for bears. Russian experts have suggested that bears prefer forests stretching over 10,000 hectares. âAt the same time, we know that there are no such forests in Estonia. A bear that we tagged spent the whole summer in an apple orchard of only a few hectares. Therefore, I think so many that bears have food, the existence of vast and untouched forests is not so crucial. “
The effects of the cull are also unclear. âOn the one hand, glades produce ants which make up the lion’s share of a bear’s diet in summer. The ant population peaks a few years after the trees are felled. Having said that, the vast forests are a peaceful place to live, which is also something of value, âexplains Valdmann. Virgin forests are also home to the red wood ants.
The zoologist said the optimal biological abundance of bears may not coincide with people’s wishes and preferences. “The current population seems to be testing people’s patience. The damage is extensive, contact has become frequent and bears are starting to be struck by cars. The latter is considered unacceptable,” said Valdmann. That is why it seems unlikely that Latvia will have its own bear population in the near future.
Valdmann said there are no other species whose range matches national boundaries as well. Moose have similar taiga habitat. âThis needs to be seen in a larger context. The number of moose decreases if we start going south and west, with little in Latvia and hardly any in Lithuania. They mainly inhabit the taiga forests which do not exist. ‘exist – or rather only existed – in Ida-Viru County of Estonia, âadded the zoologist.
Another species worth mentioning is the flying squirrel. The number one question regarding the latter is whether or not the forests inhabited by squirrels are cut down.