Finland is located in the farthest reaches of Northern Europe and covers an area of 130,666 square miles. Its northern location has a significant impact on the environmental habitats here. These habitats include: boreal forests, mixed forests, montane birch forests and grasslands, and fens (wetlands). These ecoregions provide homes to a number of plant and animal species. The survival of many of these species is considered endangered or threatened. This articles takes a look at some of the most threatened mammals in Finland.
The Most Threatened Mammals in Finland
The European mink belongs to the mustelid family with weasels, otters, wolverines, and badgers. The European mink is characterized by its thick and dark brown fur, short legs, long body, and long tail for swimming. It grows between 13.9 inches and 16.9 inches in length and can weigh from 1.21 to 1.76 pounds, depending on its sex. This species is considered semi-aquatic and spends much of its time in the water. This behavior is reflected in its principal diet, which consists of frogs, insects, fish, and aquatic vegetation.
The European mink is listed on the IUCN Red List as critically endangered due to rapidly decreasing population size and range. This species has been threatened across Europe since at least the 18th century; it was once prized for its fur. During the last decade, its population has decreased by more than 50% and its range has decreased by 85%, a significant loss in a short time span. Experts believed this mink was actually extinct in Finland in the 1970’s, but a few individuals were seen in the 1990’s. There are several factors contributing to its conservation status, which include: overhunting, deforestation, urban development, and loss of food source. Several countries throughout Europe have conservation breeding programs in an attempt to save this species from extinction.
The wolverine belongs to the mustelid family, although it is often believed to have a more bear-like appearance than mustelid. It is characterized by its muscular body, broad head, and short legs. It grows to between 12 and 18 inches tall and weighs from 20 to 55 pounds. This species prefers the boreal forest habitat where it can prey on rabbits, deer, beaver, squirrel, and mice.
The wolverine is listed on the IUCN Red List as least concern. On the Finnish Red List, however, it is listed as endangered. This is because its population once reached between 50 and 80 before having a protected status. Today, Finland has approximately 150 wolverine individuals. This species requires a large range which often overlaps with human development areas. It is at risk of hunting and trapping. Additionally, temperature increases have reduced snow coverage in some areas, preventing females from creating dens for breeding purposes.
The harbor porpoise is one of six porpoise species. It is a relatively small marine mammal that reaches lengths of between 4.6 and 6.2 feet and can weigh up to 168 pounds. It prefers the colder, coastal areas of the Black Sea, North Atlantic Ocean, and North Pacific Ocean. Its diet consists primarily of herring, sprat, and capelin fish.
The harbor porpoise is listed as least concern on the IUCN Red List because of its relatively large global population size. The Baltic Sea population, however, is considered critically endangered. Here, its population size is less than 250 mature individuals. These porpoises are threatened by the fishing industry and often become caught in the nets, unable to surface for air.
Other threatened mammal species can be seen in the chart published below.
Finland is one of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas contributors, due in part to its large mining and manufacturing industries. Additionally, this country relies on the timber industry, which has contributed to deforestation. These factors have all led to habitat degradation, which has, in turn, reduced the population size of several plant and animal species. The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation was established to investigate environmental issues. According to a 2013 report, this organization lacks sufficient funds to accomplish its objectives.