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Forest northern deers are threatened by snow mobile tourists

12 september 2022
WWF monitors forest northern deer population in Kuznetsky Alatau Nature Reserve.
The camera trapping and satellite collaring proved, that only threat remaining is the tourists using snow mobiles. The people get into the strictly protected area by mistake or on purpose, scare the ungulates.

In the spring and summer of 2021, scientists of Kuznetsky Alatau nature Reserve in the Kemerovo Region examined the habitats of the forest reindeer (Rangifer tarandus valentinae Flerov), in the eastern, central and southern parts of the reserve, conducted raids to fight poachers and organized salt licks where the animals will replenish mineral salts. The total length of the routes was more than 14 thousand km. Field research and raids were carried out with the support of WWF Russia and The World Around You Foundation of Siberian Wellness company. 

Forest reindeer, camera trap images
Kuznetsky Alatau nature Reserve
“Since 1998, employees of the Kuznetsk Alatau Reserve have been studying reindeer with a notebook and pen. Only in 2014 we set the first camera traps. And since 2021, partly thanks to WWF and World Around You Foundation, reindeers have been regularly monitored using camera traps and satellite collars,” says Alexei Vasilchenko, director of the Kuznetsky Alatau Reserve.

In the summer, the rangers did not find traces of poaching, but in February and May they saw traces of several snowmobiles and a quad bike. The trails crossed the winter concentrations of reindeer. The camera trap that was installed in these places also disappeared. It might have been stolen by bikers. 

(с) Kuznetsky Alatau Nature Reserve
Reindees in Kuznetsky Alatau
“Ten years ago, cases of illegal hunting of reindeer were registered on the eastern border of the reserve in the summer. Then patrolling was strengthened and Oleny Pass Reserve was created, so poaching stopped. Today a new threat has emerged. The grouping of reindeer is threatened by snowmobile tourists that cross the boundary of the reserve near the village of Priiskovy. Sooner or later the snowmobile tourists will bring guns and possibly try illegal; hunting. That’s why we need to raise awareness among tourists as soon as possible,” says Alexei Vasilchenko, director of the Kuznetsky Alatau reserve.

In summer the rangers of Kuznetsky Alatau Nature Reserve made four salt licks to attract ungulates to the strictly protected reserve to somehow save them from poaching.

Scientists conducted a visual count of ungulates using binoculars in snow covered mountain areas that are rare in winter. Deer roam around such summer snowfields escaping from blood-sucking insects. The expedition members checked the camera traps and received about 30,000 photographs and thousands of photographic evidence of the reindeer presence in the area.

The footage from the camera traps showed that reindeer visited salt licks more often in July-August and in the mornings, males began to molt on May 10 and ended at the end of July, and females molted from May 17 to the end of August. The beginning of the rut was noted from September 12, and the beginning of the formation and growth of horns in males - from April 20 to August 20.

(c) Kuznetsky Alatau Nature Reserve
Reindeer is captured by camera traps
“Last summer, the staff of the reserve put a satellite collar on a female reindeer. Last year, scientists tracked that the deer crossed the boundaries of the reserve into the territory of the Republic of Khakassia bordering the Kemerovo region and was observed in the Oleny Pass refuge. This year, the animal also left the protected area. This data helps to identify important sites for the protection of the reindeer, creation and maintenance of existing protected areas,” says Alexander Karnaukhov, Senior Project Coordinator of WWF in the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion.
Kuznetsky Alatau Nature Reserve
Forest reindeer
Alexey Vasilchenko, the Director of Kuznetsky Alatau Nature Reserve
(c) WWF / Kuznetsky Alatau Nature Reserve

Kuznetsky Alatau is inhabited by the Kuznetsk-Alatau group of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus valentinae Flerov), a species listed in the Red Book of Russia. This group of animals is very vulnerable and small. Based on information from field studies, the reserve plans further work on monitoring and conservation of the reindeer.

WWF project to protect the forest subspecies of the reindeer in Southern Siberia started in 2021 in Kuznetsky Alatau, the Altai and Tyva Republics. It was prolonged in 2022 and supported by a corporate partner, World Around You Foundation of Siberian Wellness company.