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'Mass death' threatens roe deer in Altai and eastern Russia due to freak snow falls

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12 December 2016


At the beginning of 2016, an estimated 25,000 roe deer were in the Altai region, but there is a threat of a new wipe out. Picture: Altaipriroda

High snow drifts in the Altai Mountains and further east in Russia are causing huge problems this winter for carnivores - roes, deer and boars. Even larger animals as moose - elk - are finding it hard to cope with the deep snow. 

Boar that are not full grown are dying in snowdrifts if there are no adults to break through the trails. The biggest threat is to roe deer, say wildlife experts. 

Special feeding sites have been set up to allow them to find food. The last winter in Altai with similar heavy snow falls was in 2001-2002, when the number of roe deer was reduced from 27,000 to 17,000.

Roe in deep snow

Feeding the ungulates

Special feeding sites have been set up to allow Altai roe deer to find food. Pictures: Altaipriroda

It took a decade to restore the population. At the beginning of 2016, an estimated 25,000 roe deer were in the region, but there is a threat of a new wipe out.

In the Russian Far East, heavy snow falls and a poor acorn crop is jeopardising the animals. 

The director of Land of the Leopards national park Tatyana Baranovskaya, said: 'Winter promises to be a stern test for ungulates. Several heavy snowfalls which hit Primorye region made it difficult for them to travel and search for food.' The snow is too deep for them to forage, she said. 

'Before the creation of the national park on these lands there were cases of the mass death of ungulates...




The deer are a crucial source of food to Siberian leopards, the most 'at risk' big cat species in the world. Pictures: Land of Leopard

'Due to annual feeding we have been able to maintain a stable population of these animals, which is especially important given the growth of the Amur leopard population.'

The deer are a crucial source of food to Siberian leopards, the most 'at risk' big cat species in the world. Food is laid out by national park staff inspecial forage areas - animal eateries that will help the wild animals to survive the winter. 

Rolls of straw and bags of grain are provided. Hundreds of deer, roe deer, wild boar come to eat. 

Feeding ungulates

Feeding ungulates

Feeding ungulates

Feeding ungulates

Some 40 foraging areas have been set up. Pictures: Land of Leopard

Some 450 rolls of soybean straw, 100 tons of oats, and 50 tons of corn has been earmarked for the winter feed.  

It is important that such measures are aimed solely at the maintaining of the strength of ungulates, not to make them full of food. Experts say it is essential the animals do not lose the skills to find food for themselves. 

Some 40 foraging areas have been set up. 

Comments (7)

People have awoken to the importance of maintaining a healthy environment here in Canada for quite some time now. Greenpeace was born here. Then the USA started to join suit and as the years passed other small countries also began to join the cause. However, it became a concern (especially in smaller countries) that environmentalism was going to destroy economies. Many countries have now devised methods to get around this, for example eco-tourism. But we never heard much from Russia and. even worse, China except usually bad news. Together they cover a lot of our world's environment. So I am so ecstatic that there ARE so many of you involved in restoring your environment to a more pristine condition. I know how difficult it is when battling soul-less corporations and governments. So keep the fight my friends. We will overcome.
Erik Bosma, Mission, BC, Canada
11/03/2017 03:16
Ozone, pollution, climate change, take your pick. Wits End does a good job depicting the horrifying effects on trees.
JR, Amerika
04/01/2017 12:54
"Balance of Nature" is something that existed in the past. Here is a clear expose on why it is no more, in one graph.
It is a very serious situation, unfolding for decades or centuries now. Protect your beautifully wildlife while it is still there.
Marina, E.U.
31/12/2016 19:12
A couple of winters (early 1980s) I lived in Wisconsin, USA we had 30 inch (76 cm) snow depths for most of the winter. It was very tough on the local whitetail deer (45-68 kg) population. It's very sad to walk through the forest and see fawns dead and dying but its not an especially new phenomena. .

Oak, and most other tree species, do not produce predictable seed crops annually. The poor seed years can knock back the population of "predators" (mostly rodents) thus increasing the chance of successful regeneration in a following year's bumper crop. In my several decades as a field forester I routinely observe this. Of course seed production is just one piece of the regendration puzzle; each tree species has its own series of requirements to successfully reproduce...

We like to think in terms of the "balance of nature" but the reality can be more like a roller coaster ride at times.
Michael Grinyer, Montana, USA
18/12/2016 13:38
The Oaks in Northern Minnesota, Northern Wisconsin USA failed to produce acorns this year. any explanations by Forest Ecologists for Acorn failure in Altai region?
Corvus duLhut, Duluth MN USA
18/12/2016 05:37
I agree with the previous comment. I also appeal the Russian authorities that they also monitor polar bears so that if they see that their populations are going down (due to man made effects) they will also be helped out. It is our duty to help these animals, otherise with all the anthropogenic effects on nature we will end up with empty forests, empty seas, empty oceans......just silence!
Matthew Tabone, Malta
16/12/2016 21:04
In the past nature balanced itself. Now Man is making not always positive pressure on the wild world (intensive agriculture, hunting / poaching, fires, industries and roads ..) Therefore it is not incomprehensible that humans also participate to protect it. Scientists can ensure a good balance for that. So our children will enjoy the wonderful wildlife.
Jocelyne, FRANCE
12/12/2016 21:02

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