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The Palearctic Realm

Eurasian wildlife is made up by wild organisms of the Palearctic Region, which includes Europe and North Africa, as well as much of Asia (Asian Russia, the northern Middle East, Central Asia and most of East Asia). South and Southeast Asia make up the Indomalayan region. Sub-Saharan Africa and the Arabian peninsula make up the Afrotropic region.

Understand[edit]

The Palearctic region has several climate zones from north to south. Most of them stretch all across the Afro-Eurasian landmass, from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

  • The Arctic tundra. Winters are long and freezing, and even summers are cold, with average temperatures below 10 °C (50 °F) all year
  • The boreal forest or taiga; a belt of conifer forest covering much of the Nordic countries and Russia, as well as northeast China. Climate is boreal with freezing winters, and short warm summers
  • A temperate zone naturally covered by broadleaf forests and temperate grasslands. As most of this zone is used for farming, natural habitats are rare. Climate is temperate with occasional snow at winter, and warm summers
  • Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers, and cool, rainy winters
  • Subtropical desert climate, hot and dry year round, especially during summer

Many of the Eurasian animals, especially the Arctic and sub-Arctic species, are also prevalent to the North American wildlife in the Nearctic realm.

While western Europe and eastern Asia are very highly exploited by humans, most countries have at least some areas of nature, where wild animals can be seen.

Animals[edit]

See also: Hiking in the Nordic countries#Wildlife

Omnivores[edit]

Running brown bear.

The brown bear (Ursus arctos) is the most widespread bear species, and can be found across Scandinavia, Russia, and the Balkans. Bears can kill human with a single well-placed blow but do not generally act aggressively towards humans unless they feel provoked.

The wild boar (Sus scrofa) is the same species as the domestic pig, and can be found across central Europe. Boars reproduce quickly, damage crops, and are hunted to limit population size. A charging wild boar can kill humans and given their propensity to enter human settlements are among the more dangerous animals.

Carnivores[edit]

The grey wolf (Canis lupus) is the largest member of the dog family, and the wild ancestor of domestic dogs. It still has small populations throughout Eurasia, with Russia home to most (over 25,000), China home to about 12,500, Spain home to a growing population of over 2,000, and also extant populations in Finland, Sweden and several countries in Central Asia and the Middle East. Wolf populations are establishing themselves in areas that had previously exterminated them, such as Saxony, Brandenburg, and even Franconia in Germany, as well as Norway, with plans to reintroduce them to some areas where they have been hunted to extinction. Wolves rarely attack humans but folklore gives them an exaggerated dangerous reputation. Hunters and farmers fear the economic damage their attacks on deer and livestock can cause.

The brown bear (Ursus arctos) has scattered populations, some threatened, in most of Europe and Asia, and larger populations in parts of Northern and Eastern Europe and through most of Russia.

The lynx (Lynx lynx) is the largest feline in Europe. They are widespread across boreal Eurasia, but nocturnal and a rather rare sight.

The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the largest fox, spread across Eurasia as well as North America. As a scavenger and a predator of small animals, it can be seen in human settlements. They have been domesticated to some extent, and continue to be farmed for their fur in Finland and Russia. The Russians have also experimented with selectively breeding foxes that are suitable to be kept as pets. While too small to be of any significant danger to humans (save for carriers of zoonotic diseases such as rabies), they are considered to be pests by farmers as they will prey on smaller livestock such as chickens and ducks. They sometimes also eat smaller pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs and mice, making them a concern for pet owners.

The Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) is severely threatened in Scandinavia but quite common in northern Siberia. Variants are farmed for their fur.

The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is among the largest of bears, endemic only to the Arctic. It is one of few species to prey on humans, and people in polar bear country need to carry a gun for their own safety. Svalbard and Novaya Zemlya are among the most likely places to see a wild polar bear.

The wolverine (Gulo gulo) is a bear-like predator and scavenger in tundras and boreal forests. There are several smaller Mustelinae species, such as the European pine marten (Martes martes) and the curious stoat (Mustela erminea).

The snow leopard or ounce (Panthera uncia) is a large cat native to the mountain ranges of Central and South Asia.

The Siberian tiger (Amur tiger, Manchurian tiger) is a threatened tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) population, living particularly in the Sikhote-Alin mountain range in the Russian Far East. The Siberian tiger once ranged throughout Korea, north China, Russian Far East, and eastern Mongolia. It is the largest member of the cat family.

Giant pandas[edit]

Giant Panda in a zoo

Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) live in the wild only in China.

Due to the extremely small number of pandas alive, it is very unlikely to see one in the wild. There are only a few tours that even attempt to find them.

Zoos throughout China have pandas on display. Outside China, only a few zoos have pandas, and frequently only for a limited time (they are "rented" from China and often must be returned after a certain number of years). See Wikipedia for a list of some zoos with giant pandas.

Maritime mammals[edit]

The grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) is widespread around Britain and Ireland, the Benelux, and the Nordic countries, all across the Baltic Sea.

The harbour seal (Phoca vitulina) is widespread along Europe's Atlantic coast, as well as the North Pacific Ocean.

There are two freshwater subspecies of the ringed seal (Pusa hispida), in Saimaa (P. h. saimensis) and Ladoga (P. h. ladogensis), and a separate freshwater species, the Baikal seal (Pusa sibirica). Other seals may visit rivers, but these three live exclusively in fresh water.

Ungulates[edit]

Take this warning sign seriously. Do not take it with you.

The elk (Alces alces, known in North America as the moose) is the largest deer. It is endemic in the Nordic countries, the Baltic states, and the Russian taiga. In these regions, it is the most dangerous animal in animal collisions. The road warning signs are iconic to roads in Sweden and Finland, and sometimes stolen by reckless visitors.

A few individuals have very little pigment and are known as white moose. Most often, the condition is not albinism, but leucism. White moose are surrounded by legend, and are usually informally protected from hunting. While a white moose is a rare sight, locals avoid giving them too much real-time attention, to avoid pursuit.

The reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) is the only deer whose females carry antlers. The reindeer has been a very important game animal, and the first members of the species to be domesticated were probably used in hunting to attract wild reindeer. There are both wild and domesticated populations; Europe uses "reindeer" for both, while North Americans use "reindeer" for domesticated populations and "caribou" for wild populations. Several indigenous peoples, such as the Sami and the Nenets traditionally herd reindeer. Most of the domesticated reindeer roam more or less freely, but some are used as beasts of burden and draught animals, and at least traditionally in some areas also for milk. As the local wild populations got extinct, husbandry became more important. Most remaining wild populations live in remote areas, but some, like the Finnish forest reindeer, has spread also to more easily reached areas. The Norwegian wild fell reindeer live in a few national parks.

The red deer (Cervus elaphus) is larger than the reindeer but noticeably smaller than the Eurasian elk. It is closely related to, and slightly smaller than, the animal known in North America as the elk (Cervus canadensis). It is widespread throughout the continent except in boreal forests and tundra regions, and its range also extends into Turkey, Iran, central Asia, and the Atlas Mountains of North Africa.

The European bison or wisent (Bison bonasus) is a bovine which used to be near extinction, but has in the 2000s been reintroduced to forests in Central Europe, Spain, Russia, and the Caucasus. With only a few thousand head worldwide, it is still a rare sight.

Rodents[edit]

The European beaver (Castor fiber) leaves clearly visible traces in the form of nests, dams, and felled trees. The animal itself is nocturnal and difficult to spot; sitting still and silent in a boat gives the best chance to see a live beaver.

Primates[edit]

The Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus) is endemic to much of North Africa, with a small European population on the tiny British exclave of Gibraltar. The Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata) is unique to Japan and the only non-human primate species native to the islands. It can be found bathing in hot springs in the winter, and lives in the coldest climate among all non-human primate species.

Birds[edit]

The mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), which is also found in North America, is the wild ancestor of the domestic duck. Unlike domestic ducks, mallards are capable of flying long distances.

Destinations[edit]

Map of Eurasian wildlife

Especially Russia and Central Asia contain vast tracts of wilderness with plants and animals in their natural habitat. Most countries have zoos which display local fauna. This list is limited to natural reserves and national parks of local or global significance.

  • 15 Wrangel Island (Chukotka, Russian Far East). Home to over 400 rare plant species, as well as Pacific walrus, polar bears, and grey whales. 4,000 years ago this island is said to have been the last refuge of the mammoth. Wrangel Island (Q106594) on Wikidata Wrangel Island on Wikipedia
  • 16 Hornborgasjön, Falköping, Sweden Lake Hornborga on Wikipedia is famous for the mating dance of cranes (Grus grus) in spring.
  • 17 Karlsöarna, Sweden

See also[edit]

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