Experts came to such an optimistic conclusion after conducting aerial counts of animals from the Kronotsky-Zhupanovsky herd, the only one preserved in Kamchatka. The key winter pastures of the Red Book animals were examined from a helicopter. According to scientific estimates, in three years the number of wild reindeer has increased by 20%.
“The need to monitor the state of the wild reindeer population is due to a catastrophic decrease in its number during the eruption of Kizimen volcano in 2010-2013. Then, as a result of the loss of large volumes of ash, food on permanent winter pastures turned out to be inaccessible to animals - snow mixed with particles of volcanic rocks literally turned into concrete. A significant part of the herd, which at that time numbered no more than 1000 individuals, died of hunger and food loss” explained Daria Panicheva, head of the scientific department of the Kronotsky Reserve.
As a result of visual observations and subsequent calculations using a long-term scientific methodology, experts determined the number of the Kronotsky-Zhupanovsky herd at 350 individuals - this is 50 deer more than last year.
“ We are very pleased by the high survival rate of calves born in 2019. Obviously, this was affected by the fact that the winter of 2019-2020 was quite snowy and relatively warm. Deer pastures were not covered with infusion, animals could freely and in the required amount get lichens and plant food under the snow in the cold period, ”said Vladimir Gordienko.
Scientists expect that due to the high number of hares, which has been observed in the Kronotsky Reserve over the past 4 years, wolves, wolverines and foxes will choose these animals as their main prey. Thus, the pressure of predators on wild reindeer, endangered, will decrease.
It is wonderful that nature itself takes care of the wild inhabitants of Kamchatka. Last winter, favorable conditions were created for wild reindeer - they were able to save offspring and feed without obstacles. But we must understand that this will not always be the case. Winters on the peninsula are severe, and deer are on the verge of extinction. Their preservation is our responsibility. A significant part of winter pastures is located outside the reserve, where animals can become a prey for poachers, ”said Pyotr Shpilenok, director of the Kronotsky State Reserve. - Now the main task is to create a protected zone around the perimeter of the Kronotsky Reserve in the near future.
Kamchatka wild reindeer is the largest in Eurasia. Some experts believe that this is a separate subspecies, others attribute it to the Okhotsk. Genetics will be able to find out for sure - at present, animal genetic material is being collected for research.
If it turns out that this is an endemic of Kamchatka, then in the near future without taking urgent measures to save it, the subspecies may be lost. Until the 80s of the last century, Kamchatka was inhabited by over 20,000 wild reindeers. A sharp reduction in numbers began as a result of irrational hunting, poaching and infrastructure development. Domestic reindeer husbandry caused the greatest damage to the population - wild animals were driven out of their traditional pastures and illegally shot. By 2006, the number of deer was reduced to 2 thousand individuals, they were listed in the Kamchatka Red Book as a species with a "focal nature of distribution and a tendency to further decrease in numbers."
By 2010, the only Kronotsky-Zhupanovsky population of wild reindeers with a total number of about 900 individuals remained on the peninsula. The strict guard regime of the Kronotsky Reserve helped to save it. After the powerful eruption of Kizimen volcano, which began in December 2010 and lasted for exactly 3 years, the number of animals began to catastrophically decline.