With the 2014 Winter Olympics about to begin in Sochi, many of us will be visiting Russia this month — if only in spirit, from the comfort of our living room. Being the animal lovers that we are here at PawNation, we’re just as interested in Russia’s fauna as we are in its Olympic Games. That’s why we got curious about what creatures are endemic to the country’s forests, mountains and coasts. Here are 10 animals native to Russia.
The Amur leopard, aka the Far Eastern leopard, is a critically endangered subspecies found in the southwestern Primorye region of Russia. There are only 20-30 Amur leopards left in the wild, according to the latest International Union for Conservation of Nature census. Threats include poaching, habitat destruction and climate change. The mascots for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi include an anthropomorphic Amur leopard, along with a polar bear and a European hare.
KAMCHATKA BROWN BEAR
The brown bear is Russia’s national animal, and is commonly used to symbolize and personify the country. There are 16 recognized subspecies of brown bear, one of which is the Kamchatka brown bear, aka the Far Eastern brown bear, native to Russia. The Kamchatka brown bear is closely related to its brown bear cousins in Alaska across the Bering Strait, and is believed to be the ancestor of the Kodiak bear, aka the Alaska grizzly bear.
STELLER’S SEA EAGLE
The Steller’s sea eagle is a bird of prey found in the Kamchatka Peninsula in Siberia and coastal areas along the Pacific in Russia, as well as parts of northern Korea and Japan, and western Alaska. The eagle’s diet consists mainly of fish, especially salmon, and it typically nests near coasts and river that feature heavy salmon traffic. Because of its limited range, the Steller’s sea eagle is classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The Siberian tiger, aka the Amur tiger, is found mostly in Russia, but also in parts of northern China and North Korea. Up to 11 feet long and 700 pounds, the Siberian tiger is the biggest cat on Earth. This stealth hunter can eat as much as 60 pounds of food in one night. The Siberian tiger is an endangered species, with fewer than 400 left in the world, although this number represents a significant recovery since the 1930s, when the population fell to 20-30 tigers.
The Orlov trotter is the most famous Russian horse. Count Alexei Grigoryevich Orlov, a Russian statesman and livestock breeder, developed the breed in the late 1700s. The Orlov trotter was designed for speed and endurance to travel long distance over difficult roads in Russia’s severe weather. Orlov’s new breed was also designed to have an especially long-strided trot, the attribute for which it is named.
A relative of the Arctic ringed seal, the Baikal seal is endemic to Siberia’s isolated Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest and most voluminous freshwater lake. Not only is Lake Baikal the only place where the Baikal seal can be found, but the species is also the world’s only exclusively freshwater seal. The most recent population estimates, from a census conducted in 2000, put the number of of Baikal seals between 80,000 and 100,000 animals.
The spoon-billed sandpiper is a critically endangered bird native to far northeastern Russia, though it migrates through Russia, Japan, North and South Korea, and China. The IUCN classified the species as endangered until very recently, when new research revealed the population decline had been much more drastic than thought. The spoon-billed sandpiper is now believed to be on the verge of extinction, with fewer than 100 breeding pairs left.
This species of marmot, a genus of ground squirrels that includes the groundhog, is endemic to mountain and arctic tundras in eastern Siberia, specifically the Baikal Region, Verkhoyanskoe and Kolymskoe Highlands, and Kamchatka. Black-capped marmots are “not abundant” according to the IUCN, but they are classified as “least concern” because they are protected by law, and their numbers are not declining.
The snow sheep, aka the Siberian bighorn sheep, is from Russia’s Putorana Mountains, north central Siberia, northeast Siberia from Lena River east to Chukotka and Kamchatka. The most recent estimates put the snow sheep population at around 90,000, comprised of several subspecies including the Chukotka, Kamchatka, Kolyma, Koryak, Okhotsk, Putorana and Yakutia snow sheep. The snow sheep is related to the bighorn sheep of North America.
Next: Animals Native to Australia
The Siberian crane, aka the Siberian white crane or snow crane, is from arctic Russia in Yakutia and West Siberia. Siberians are noted for their almost completely white plumage, which makes them unique among cranes. The species in critically endangered, with a 2010 census calcuating their numbers at only about 3,200 birds left in the world. The population is expected to decrease much further due to the building of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River.