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Brown bears in Altaisky Nature Reserve interfered with reindeer study

06 september 2022

Reindeer monitoring in the Altaisky Reserve took place this summer. The task of the expedition is to identify the exact habitats of the reindeer, to obtain photographic evidence of the presence of a rare species of ungulates, and, if possible, to clarify the size of the group. The field research was supported by the WWF and World Around You Foundation of Siberian Wellness.

Thanks to camera traps, the staff of the reserve received 9137 photographs, but no reindeer was recorded on the territory of the Altai Reserve. Mostly bears and red deers (Cervus elaphus sibericus) were captured by cameras. Scientists explain why.

Expedition to check camera traps proved, that monitoring reindeers near salt licks was ineffective. Cameras have become an attractive new object for brown bears, on two of hree salt licks the camera traps were damaged by bears - gnawed or pushed down. Cameras couldn’t work properly and didn’t’ capture images. Now we plan to install cameras on animal trails and mountain passes. In addition, we noted the presence of a large number of red deers on salt licks sites, and according to our observations, these large ungulates can displace smaller reindeer from the territory. The raids revealed traces of the old camp of poachers, but there is no fresh evidence of poaching,” says Yuri Kalinkin, a leading researcher at the Altai Reserve.
Red deers captured by camera traps
(c) WWF / Altaisky Nature Reserve
Блок питания из камеры, поврежденной медведем.
Камера, поврежденная медведем на солонце Учаркыр.
Camera traps were either gnawed or turned down
(c) WWF / Altaisky Nature Reserve

During the 12 days of the reindeer monitoring expedition, rangers and scientists of Altaisky Nature Reserve walked 145 km, and covered 100 km by boat, installed 5 camera traps for the protection and monitoring of the reindeer, mended three previously laid salt licks, where ungulates come to replenish mineral salts.

Абаканский хребет, верховья р. Кандаш, местообитания северного оленя.
Маралы на искусственном солонце.
Верховья реки Оэнсу, возможные местообитания оленей.
Верховья реки Тушкен, возможные местообитания оленей.
Хребет Таштукыр, где последний раз были отмечены северные олени в 2020 году.
Абаканский хребет, возможные местообитания северных оленей.
Expedition to Abansky ridge
(c) WWF / Altaisky Nature Reserve
“Today, in the Altai Mountains, the reindeer has been reliably preserved only in the Altai Reserve on the Shapshalsky and Abakansky ridges, and the exact habitats of the species have been poorly studied, as they are located in places that are difficult to access, remote from settlements and roads. It is also rare to see a deer in the wild. Thanks to the support of expeditions and raids, since 2021, a network of automatic cameras has been formed in the Altaisky Reserve on the Abakan Ridge. Inspectors and scientists will continue monitoring rare ungulates,” says Yuri Kalinkin, Leading Researcher at the Altai Reserve.

The next expedition to the habitats of the reindeer in the Altai Reserve is scheduled for autumn. The study participants will expand the network of automatic cameras and the survey area.

Выкладка соли на солонце Учаркыр.
Выкладка соли на солонце Учаркыр.
Установка и настройка камеры на перевале Оэнсу-Тушкен.
Rangers making salt licks
(c) WWF / Altaisky Nature Reserve
“Back in the 19th century, the reindeer inhabited a third of the territory of the Altai Republic, but in the last century, the number of the species has declined due to poaching and climate change. If measures are not taken to protect the reindeer now, then in a few years the reindeer may completely disappear from the territory of the Altai Republic,” says Alexander Karnaukhov, Senior Project Coordinator of the WWF representative office in the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion.

WWF Russia’s project to protect the forest subspecies of the reindeer in Southern Siberia started in 2021 in Kuznetsk Alatau, the Altai and Tyva Republics, and continued in 2022. The work was supported by the partners of the World Around You Foundation of the Siberian Wellness company.

For additional information please contact
Senior Project сoordinator