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WWF-Russia: deep snow in the Russian Far East threatens the ungulates with death

07 december 2021
The past two heavy snowfalls in the Amur tiger range have caused huge problems for wild ungulates and rare predators this winter. WWF Russia calls on game users and all interested organizations to strengthen anti-poaching work and to support ungulates in order to mitigate the consequences of the climatic anomaly
The coming year can be a challenge both for people and wild animals. WWF, together with experts, is monitoring the situation with wild animals in the south of the Russian Far East in deep snow conditions. 50 - 80 cm deep snow in the central part of Sikhote-Alin and almost one meter in the mountains and in northern areas guarantee the most difficult winter for almost all ungulate species, especially short-legged and “narrow-footed”. Unfortunately, wild animals will face troubles in finding food and breaking through such a deep snow for the entire winter, almost until May. Poachers already took advantage of the emergency situation and went to their illegal hunt.

A tiger cub on the road in Khabarovsky province

According to Pavel Fomenko, senior coordinator of rare species conservation unit at WWF Russia Amur branch: “The depth, duration and condition of snow cover directly affects the survival and reproduction of wild ungulates. For example, not all roe deer will survive until spring if snow cover remains 40 cm for a long time, the same is for sika deer. Red deer will withstand 50-60 centimeters. For a wild boar, these conditions are critical. However, due to living in herds and moving through trails, they can survive tough times, when there is no disturbance factor. In hard and starving winters, many females may not bring litter. The snow depth varies in different parts of the Far East, the northern regions in Khabarovsky and Evreiskaya provinces experience the worst conditions, Primorsky province is more or less safe. We are closely monitoring the situation with the Amur tiger. First of all, regarding conflict situations, which WWF's specialists are tracking together with authorized bodies and public organizations. Local people note an increase in predators’ activity. Conflict tiger resolution groups supported by WWF in Khabarovsky and Evreiskaya provinces are monitoring and minimizing conflicts.”
More than ten years ago, WWF Russia initiated the introduction of mobilization and biotechnical plans by hunting clubs, a set of measures to support ungulates during severe winters. Several protected areas have adopted similar plans as well. WWF urges to address the issue of supplementary feeding and rescuing wild ungulates in areas with deep snow very seriously.

Roe deer stuck in the snow in Khabarovsky province

A number of hunting clubs in the region have already begun to help animals: they cut trails, set feeding sites and take measures to combat poaching.

“The snow cover on the territory of Tayozhnoye hunting club is so deep that even snowmobiles get stuck in high snow drifts. While driving, we saw about a dozen roe deer, in groups of 5-6 animals. They stand on the road side and don't even run away, they just jump off and stuck in the snow. We urgently have to save the animals, to clear the trails for their movement, because without movement they will die. We definitely have to strengthen the patrolling. This is what we are doing now with the support of WWF.” says Sergey Krivich, director of Tayozhnoye hunting club in Khabarovsky province.

“This year is challenging. The snow cover in northern districts reached almost one meter, this is extremely dangerous for the survival of ungulates and tigers. We expect an increase in conflict tigers by the spring. Thanks to WWF, the infrastructure of the Rehab Center ‘TIGR” is ready for this situation. We are finishing the construction of a warm surgery block with water supply.” comments Viktor Kuzmenko, head of the Rehab Center “TIGR”.

Roe deer on the road near Tayoznoye hunting club in Khabarovsky province

“There is a lot of snow on the territory of the Anyuisky National Park. The snow depth is about 80-90 cm. We have not yet started the supplementary feeding, now we cut the trails on the snowy roads so that the animals can get through. Now we are looking for forage crops like oats, hay or soybeans in the farms for emergency feeding for red deer and roe deer. The fact that the snow fell too early is alarming, because some of the animals may die. Moreover, we are monitoring the situation with the tiger. Right now we are tracking the tiger which attacks stray dogs in one of the villages,” comments Stepan Kirillin, the head of the Anyuisky National Park.

WWF has already supported the anti-poaching work of Khabarovsky, Evreiskaya and Amurskaya wildlife management departments, as well as the work of conflict tiger resolution groups. Supplementary feeding for ungulates has already begun in Irbis and Tayozhnoye hunting clubs. Additional forage and fuel will be provided for the northern territories in need. We have to make all efforts to save animals from death.

Photo of roe deer in snow © Tayozhnoye hunting club, Khabarovsky province

Video of a tiger cub and ungulates in snow – Khabarovsky province, from social media