People often ask me "Are there bears over there?" "Is it as dangerous as in Alaska?" "What is the fauna like over there?". So I thought it would be useful and interesting to write a post on the northern fauna. I choose to name it "Fauna of Lapland" as the area covered by the Nordkalottleden is entirely located in Lapland and covers parts of Northern Norway, Finnish Lapland ( a region) and Swedish Lapland (a province).
Even though there are not that many kinds of animals in northern Scandinavia, many of the ones there are quite exciting! The majority are species typical of the boreal coniferous zone such as elk (moose), and Finland national animal, the brown bear. Arctic fauna is found in the north and European fauna in the south. Examples of Lapland wildlife include the arctic fox, the flying squirrel, the ringed seal, wolverines and wolves – all of which are endangered species. Other rare species, such as the lynx, the golden eagle and the snowy owl are species found in Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian nature
There are many kinds of birds in Lapland. Lapland is an eldorado for bird watchers. In some places there are bird-watching towers. The Lapland spring is a hectic time for migrators who often come a long way to nest. The rough-legged buzzard is a common birds of prey. There are also viable populations of eagles, hawks and owls. Common small-sized birds among birch trees include the meadow pipit, northern wheatear, and the willow warbler. A rare and exotic inhabitant of Lapland is the pure white snowy owl.
The reindeer is everywhere in Lapland and is the most common animal. There may be as many as 400.000-500.000 of them altogether in the three parts of Lapland.
Scandinavia is home to all four of Europe’s large predatory mammals: brown bears, wolves, lynx and wolverines:
The bear is Finland's national animal. There are bear populations in all three parts of Lapland and it is denser further south than the area I will hike.
There are also populations of wolverines and wolves. Lynx is the only wild cat in Lapland.
The moose - also called elk - is Lapland's largest wild animal. It lives in forests and marshlands.
The arctic fox is a protected and endangered species. The red fox, rabbits, and other small mammals are more common. The lemming is common all over Lapland.
In Finland, in recent decades the populations of large carnivores have been purposefully restored, and their numbers are now stable. Finland is home to more than 1,600 bears, about 150-160 wolves, nearly 2,500 lynx and 150–170 wolverines.
To read and learn more on fauna in the far north:
Wilderness Road - all about fauna and more in Northern Sweden
Wild Sweden - with a list of the 10 most popular wild animals in Sweden
This is Finland - wealth of information on Finland
Reisenett.no - on flora and fauna of Norway
Did you know?
In the winter Scandinavia is a harsh environment. Consequently there is not a rich mammal presence. Even in the surrounding valleys, where there is some protection and under the snow some food, life is a struggle for most. However, in the summer conditions are kind and most mammals, especially the herbivores, flourish.
Key to how the carnivores flourish and breed is how the small rodents, like lemmings and voles breed. About every 3-5 years there is a population explosion or lemming year. It is thought that after such a year, the plants which have sustained the small rodents and been severely gnawed produce unpalatable chemicals which hinder the rodents' digestion. These chemicals only last a few years in the plants and are then weak enough for the rodents to feast again.
In lemming years many carnivores and birds of prey maximize their breeding. Indeed, some can only breed successfully in such years. The resulting abundance of predators the following year also hinders any small rodent population explosion and the population wanes again.
Source: Scandinavian Mountains.com
Outdoor life and wildlife
Moving about in Lapland's nature is safe, in despite of the carnivore animal species. Nearly always the wild animals will act shyly and avoid human contact. However there are some rules to follow in order not to disturb the fauna and the reindeer, especially when accompanied by dogs. I will keep Sparta and Nyx on the leash all the time, not only to prevent them from exhaustion but mainly to avoid any trouble with wild animals and reindeer herds. In Sweden for instance, in summer, dogs must be kept on the leash.
I shouldn't come across too many bears. But one never knows... Sparta and Nyx will both have a nice little bell on the collar!
Here are some great guidelines I've found on bears: outdoor life in bears area