Siberia is renowned for its wildlife. Its vast expanses with various natural zones are home to rare and amazing animals. Today, we will delve into the fascinating world of predators and their adorable neighbors, thriving in the challenging conditions of our region.
The most fearsome animal
Undoubtedly, the brown bear stands out as one of Siberia's most renowned predators, often depicted in folk tales and legends. Its massive size and immense physical strength have earned it the nickname "the king of animals". The brown bear is an omnivorous creature, consuming a wide variety of foods. While it primarily feeds on plant-based items like rhizomes, berries, acorns, and herbs. It also enjoys consuming insects and various rodents. Although brown bears may appear slow at first sight, they are surprisingly fast and can reach speeds of up to 55 km/h. They generally avoid encounters with humans, and the greatest danger comes from a female bear with cubs, whose maternal instincts can be triggered if she perceives a threat. Additionally, rogue bears that wake up during their winter sleep can also pose a danger.
In Siberia, only wolves, known for their intelligence and pack mentality, can rival the danger posed by bears. Taiga-dwelling wolves are typically darker and smaller compared to their counterparts living in the tundra. Wolves live in packs with a well-defined hierarchical structure. Usually, all members obey the leader, and there are also mid-ranking wolves, low-ranking wolves called outcasts, and even nannies – young wolves who help in looking after the offspring while the parents are away hunting. Wolves hunt in groups of 10–15 individuals and are capable of bringing down prey much larger than their size, like elk. Wolves are known as forest sanitarians, as they mainly prey on weak and sick animals, thereby upholding the law of natural selection.
Another fearsome predator is the wild pig, or wild boar. These large hoofed animals are highly adaptable to different types of food and tend to inhabit steppe areas. Their average weight is 200 kg. Encountering wild boars during the rutting season can be dangerous for humans, as they may become aggressive and attack in an enraged state.
Beauty with cautiousness
Undoubtedly, the endangered Amur tiger stands out as one of the most beautiful and majestic predators. By some estimates, just over 500 individuals of the Amur tiger now remain in the wild. This symbol of Siberia is the largest tiger on earth, reaching a weight of over 300 kg, and the only one capable of living in cold conditions. Only this subspecies has a special layer of fat formed on its belly to protect it from cold weather. The Amur tiger is a solitary creature, inhabiting remote forested areas of southeastern Siberia. The male diligently protects his territory, which can extend to 600–800 km2. In hunting, this ruthless predator is a true master. Its diet consists of deer, wild boar, elk, and small mammals, but it can feed on fish or frogs. The tiger usually brings its prey to the water and hides the leftovers in a safe place. It rarely attacks humans.
Siberian Husky is not a wild animal, but it is a specialized breed of dog originally bred by Chukchi indigenous tribes for herding reindeer. Their fur is specially designed to keep them warm at temperatures as low as -50...-60 °C. These animals are very social and friendly, but they can also be stubborn and independent. They possess an excellent sense of smell and a strong hunting instinct, which usually allows them to locate their prey accurately.
Siberia's cutest animals
If there was a contest for the cutest animals in the world, the winner would undoubtedly be the Siberian flying squirrel, an adorable rodent of the squirrel family. These squirrels are smaller in size compared to ordinary squirrels, but they have a significant advantage – patagium between their front and back legs, which helps them jump from branch to branch. These cuties like hide in tree hollows and are mostly active during the night, making it difficult to photograph them.
A feline that is perpetually dissatisfied with everything – this is a concise description of Pallas' cats, because of their indignant facial expression. Despite its formidable appearance and fluffy fur, the Pallas' cat can easily be frightened by any sound or the slightest threat, causing it to panic and swiftly run away. Pallas' cats are most active in the afternoon or early morning. They prefer to spend most of their time in sheltered places, such as sleeping in foxholes, between rocks, and in gorges. The animal is not very sociable even with its own kind, earning it the moniker "steppe hermit".
When it comes to the one that proves to be more sociable yet equally endearing, it's the Arctic fox, also known as the polar fox. They can frequently be spotted near human habitations, where they attempt to steal something edible. In winter, this animal displays a snowy-white or bluish tinge of colour, while in summer, it adopts a greyish-brown hue. A typical Arctic fox family includes a male, a female, young females from the previous litter, and cubs of the current year. Usually, families of Arctic foxes live separately, but they may also settle in packs. Throughout most of the year, these animals roam in search of sustenance until the breeding season arrives. The Arctic fox is omnivorous, it mainly feeds on small rodents and birds.
An animal that leaves no one indifferent is the northern pika. The mammals of the hare family are commonly found in the plains of the taiga and tundra zones of Siberia. They get their name from the shrill whistle they use to communicate with each other or to alert their kin of approaching danger. They feed on plants, mushrooms, berries. These animals are very industrious; from the end of July to August, pikas gather grass for the winter, storing many times more than they can eat. Pikas are extremely shy and difficult to find in their usual habitat, but they have one peculiarity: In their free time, they like to sit still for long periods of time on a rock or at the entrance to a burrow – this is when photographers manage to capture these cute creatures.
The long-eared hedgehog completes our selection of Siberia's most adorable animals. It is distinguished from its main congeners by its elongated muzzle and large ear flaps, as well as its speed of locomotion. In case of danger, the long-eared hedgehog prefers not to curl up in a ball but tries to run away if possible. It feeds on insects, fruits, seeds, berries, and also hunts frogs and lizards. The long-eared hedgehogs are well adapted to large temperature changes and can go without food for about 10 weeks.
The wildlife in Siberia is genuinely abundant and varied, despite the challenging climatic conditions. Did you know that this area is inhabited by so many fascinating creatures and is home to dangerous and beautiful animals at the same time?