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Mammals of the Khibiny tundra

Mammals of the Khibiny are represented by marine and terrestrial animals. It numbers little more than 10 species of marine mammals. They are divided into 2 classes: cetacea and pinnipedia. Most of them are extremely rare and some species are on the verge of extinction. There are great polar whale and giant finner from the representatives of the cetacea and Atlantic walrus as the representative of the pinnipedia. The most numerous is the harp seal.

Polar fox

It numbers little more than 30 species of terrestrial mammals. Typical forest mammals are squirrel and marten. Sometimes they can be seen in the sparse forest tundra . Squirrel appears there for gathering harvest (fir mainly). Marten is fed by mouse-like rodents. Bears, wolverine and mooses are also strongly attracted to forest zone. But often they can be found in the forest-tundra and even the open tundra.

Close to ponds you can find musk-rat and American mink - new species that were brought here several decades ago to the fauna of this area. The local species is the otter. But it rarely occurs in case of being too sensitive to the factors of pollution and disturbance. The Arctic fox is perfectly adapted to the conditions of the Khibiny . Its number is small and this animal is found mainly in the North-East of the Murmansk region. It is noticed that these places have become actively assimilated by fox recent years. Quite usual for tundra and mountain spaces you can find Norway lemming, red-grey vole and such large mammals as wolverine and reindeer.

Mammals of the Khibiny tundra are represented by 9 classes, where the class of the rodents is the most numerous. The largest representative of the rodents is the beaver. It was entered to the list of rare animals of the Murmansk region in case of being very rare. Some years ago the beaver was a common animal for our land, it was hunted. Soon it has led to the complete destruction of the population on the northern border of animal population. In early 30-s G.M. Krepe (the organizer of the Lapland nature reserve) brought there several beavers to restore the population. This experience had a success. Soon another small party was delivered there after that until the 50 's there was being observed the rapid growth of the population. Then came the depression: beavers widely settled, crossed the border of the reserve and their number has notably decreased. Nowadays there is only 30 beavers in the area.

Lemmings are very small rodents with thick fur and sharp claws that allow them to dig out a dense layer of snow for the bagging of green feed in winter. These miniature animals aim at living in the same place. In the years of plentiful reserves of food they extremely breed. When it happens, part of the colony move to another territory and a great number of these animals are killed.

Lemmings are eaten by another animal living in the polar Khibiny - the Arctic fox. It was found throughout different mountainous parts of the Kola Peninsula. The Arctic fox even eat partridges and berries. In winter these animals change their color from dark to white for better masking. In these places you can meet squirrels and hares as well as the enormous families of shrews.

The main food for many birds and animals are small rodents like voles and lemmings, and insect-eaters - shrews. Therefore a constant supervision (monitoring) after small mammals is provided there. From time to time the number, population structure and other indexes of the population are registered. The organism of the animal is very sensitive to changes of the external environment and living conditions. Thus, observations of the area of the industrial complex «Severonickel» and the Lapland nature reserve showed that the number of the populations of all species of mammals have sharply decreased and some species have almost disappeared due to environmental pollution. It mainly refers to insect-eaters - shrews, red and particularly ginger voles. They don't fall into the trap grooves and manglers when the calculation of the «inhabitants» of the zone of high air pollution takes place. These species are very sensitive to changes of environmental conditions and they are good indicators - showing the state of nature. The red-gray vole is more resistant to pollution, but it is also marked by changes of the internal organs as a response to the anthropogenic pressure.

There are 12 species of predatory mammals. The largest of them is the brown bear - quite ordinary beast in our forests. In Khibiny mountains he lives in the little-inhabited territory. The representatives of these species eat berries and mushrooms that there are in a great abundance in summer. Even bears can attack young deer. It’s quite very rare that you can meet a forest cat - the lynx. Also the family of martens is widely presented. You can see as the normal and widespread ermine as the rare in our area otters and wolverines. Ermines and martens are usually met at Imandra Lake.

From the canine family in our area you can meet the wolf, the fox and the Arctic fox. The most typical and popular representative of this group is the fox. It mainly feeds on small mammals. It’s marked a fixed dependence of the number of the population of foxes from the «harvest» of mouse-like rodents.

It’s quite often that one can see an elk and a reindeer as a representative of the class of artiodactyls. The visits of European roe are extremely rare observed. The conventional fishing species is the elk, that is widely spread throughout the area especially in summer. The elk moves to the wintering area (the forest zone) in winter.

As you know, the deer is a typical northern animal perfectly adapted for life with prolonged cold and heavy snow cover. Warm skin and wide sliding hooves let deer to shift easy in the snow in winter, trample it down for the search of the reindeer moss, in summer it let deer to shift throughout the marshes. The antlers are quite common both for males and females. Usually one calf is born to the end of May, after that female shed its antlers. New antlers appear only in September and early October. Throughout winter the females have horns. Males shed its antlers after the heat in November or December. Throughout winter the males don’t have it.

There are wild as well as domestic deer in the tundra. During the last century the locals (the Lapps) didn’t have big herds. They lost free way of pasturage and deer were left to themselves until late autumn after the calving. At the end of the 19th century the Komi-Izhems brought large herds of deer to the Kola Peninsula. Another species of deer (tundra deer) and another way of pasturage (with the help of dogs) appeared. Wild deer were largely hunt to extinction. The number of domestic deer rapidly started to grow. By 1914 there were about 80 thousands of heads. At the same time the number of wild deer was decreasing. It was the stimulus to raise the issue of the preservation of these animals. In 1930 Lapland nature reserve was established and saved the wild deer from total destruction. Over time the herd of wild deer has increased that became the stimulus for permitting to hunt for these animals. In 1976 the hunting of wild deer was again prohibited. Now there are nearly 3-3.5 thousand of heads in the Lapland nature reserve and in Tersky district, the number of domestic deer is 62-65 thousand of heads. For the preservation of these species in 1983 it was decided to enlarge twice the territory of the Lapland nature reserve and organize 5 new zoological reserves mainly in the western part of the region.

Nowadays the animal world is subject to change. In connection with the development of the Khibiny massif and the impact of human economic activity some species of animals die out or go to other areas as well as new representatives of the animal world appear.

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