No great change in the threat status of mammals
Photo: Riku Lumiaro
Of the 74 species of mammals (Mammalia) evaluated in Finland, 11 are threatened. Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus), European Polecat (Mustela putorius) and Saimaa Ringed Seal (Pusa hispida saimensis) populations have declined. The Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus) is the only mammal to have experienced a clear improvement in numbers. The reproductive health of females is currently normal and the Grey Seal is now classified as Least Concern. The conservation status of 49 species remains as before, while five species of mammals have become Regionally Extinct.
The four new species encountered in Finland since the 2000 evaluation are the Soprano Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus), Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), Serotine Bat (Eptesicus serotinus) and Pond Bat (Myotis dasycneme). Five mammal species that were excluded from the previous evaluation have now been included: the Parti-coloured Bat (Vespertilio murinus), European Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) and Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena), as well as the rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), an alien species that has been spread by humans. The 2010 evaluation contains nine more species than the 2000 evaluation.
The Garden Dormouse (Eliomys quercinus) is believed to be Regionally Extinct, as the last observations were made in the 1980s. The Harbour Porpoise and European Reindeer were added to the Regionally Extinct category on the basis of either an increased level of knowledge or changes in criteria and their interpretation. The conservation status of the European Beaver (Castor fiber) fell to Vulnerable. The status of the Saimaa Ringed Seal remained the same as in the 2008 worldwide evaluation carried out by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN): Critically Endangered. Finland’s threatened mammals are: the Arctic Fox (Vulpes lagopus), Saimaa Ringed Seal), Wolverine (Gulo gulo), Grey Wolf (Canis lupus), Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx), Eurasian Brown Bear (Ursus arctos arctos), European Polecat, Siberian Flying Squirrel (Pteromys volans), European Beaver, Nathusius' Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus nathusii) and Natterer's Bat (Myotis nattereri).
Deliberate or unintentional trapping or hunting will continue to be a major threat to large mammals. Trends in the populations of large carnivores and Ringed Seal (Pusa hispida) are dependent on mortality caused by humans.
Interspecific competition and hybridisation threatens many species. For example, the Finnish Forest Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus fennicus) breeds with domestic reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus), and the European Hare (Lepus europaeus) is harmful to the Mountain Hare through both competition and hybridisation. Mild winters have contributed to the spread of the Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) to fell areas, where it is taking over the habitats and breeding grounds of the Arctic Fox. Global warming and milder winters have also caused a decline in mammals that have adapted to life in snowy and icy conditions, such as the Mountain Hare, Wolverine and seals.
Disturbance, traffic and forestry operations – and for some species also random factors – can have a major impact on certain species.
Changes in the status of game species
According to game monitoring conducted by the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute, Mountain Hare populations in the southern half of Finland halved during the 1990s. The species is now Near Threatened. Shorter periods of snow cover appear to be the main reason for this. A lack of snow causes the Mountain Hare’s white coat to stand out, placing it at a greater risk of being eaten by predators, and also hampers its attempts to take overnight shelter in snow burrows. However, the decline in population size seems to have levelled off during the last ten years.
Things are not going well for the European Polecat. The number of individuals has declined and its area of distribution has reduced. The greatest decline in numbers happened before the current evaluation period. The species is now classified as Vulnerable. The reasons for the decline in European Polecats are competition with the American Mink (Neovison vison), environmental poisons (especially rat poison) and changes in habitat. There are now fewer open refuse heaps and agriculture is more hygienic.
Replenishments to large carnivore populations are no longer expected from Sweden, Norway and Russia. The conservation statuses of the Wolverine, Eurasian Lynx and Eurasian Brown Bear have therefore been downgraded, even though the number of individuals has risen. The Eurasian Lynx and Eurasian Brown Bear, which were previously classified as Near Threatened, are now classified as Vulnerable. The Wolverine, previously in the Endangered category, is now classed as Critically Endangered, while the Grey Wolf is Endangered.
The 2010 evaluation of the conservation status of mammals was carried out at the request of the Ministry of the Environment by an expert group appointed by the Finnish Mammalogical Society.
- Professor Heikki Henttonen, Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla), tel. +358 (0)50 391 2430, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Senior Researcher Ulla-Maija Liukko, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), tel. +358 (0)400 148 683, email@example.com