Field work, guided carnivore tours and Laponia world heritage

Out doing a snow track survey out by the coast in Uppsala county, using snow shoes.

2019 is well underway and there has been a lot of exciting things happening for me. I have spent some time out by the east coast in Sweden doing a snow-track survey, looking at tracks from carnivores and other wildlife, and also held three guided tours with large carnivores and had a trip up to the world heritage site Laponia in northern Sweden.

Starting in January we were out censusing wildlife out by the coast in eastern Sweden. We have pre-set lines that we hike in the field and where we note all tracks of mammals that cross the lines. We find a bit of this and that during these censuses, from roe deer and hares to martens, squirrels, moose and other animals. In one place an otter had pierced the ice and gone up across a frozen lake. Nearby were also tracks from the rarely seen Eurasian lynx.

Scats from gray wolf in Glamsen wolf territory, the scats containing both hair and pieces of bone from its prey.

Something very rare happened once, as I in one instance scared off two wild boar that were resting in a dug-out anthill just five meters from where I was standing. They didn’t react to me at first but after about 20 seconds one of them turned its head and looked at me. It didn’t seem to understand that I could see it at first but once it did, they both rushed off in a great hurry. Wild boar is normally very wary and it is rare to come that close.

Doing this kind of field work is always refreshing and a welcome contrast to being inside by a computer working. I enjoy it a lot.

A majestic northern light dances all over our heads, in Norrbotten, Sweden.

The first two weekends in February I organized three guided tours together with Biotopia in Uppsala. We held one guided tour with Eurasian lynx, following tracks of a lone individual in the wild and talking about everything about the lynx, from how it lives to its situation in Sweden. We also held two guided tours with gray wolf, following a wolf pack in northern Uppsala county. In one instance, we found 17 wolf scats within a few hundred meters along with several resting sites.

Then I have just spent two weeks in the world heritage site Laponia in north-western Sweden. Laponia is located north of the Arctic circle just at the foot of some of our highest alpine mountains. Stora Sjöfallet National Park, where I stayed, was established in 1909 along with several of the other large national parks in Sweden, including the legendary Sarek National Park.

Manager Jenny Carlsson tends to the fireplace at the visitor center Naturum Laponia in Stora Sjöfallet National Park.

These were some of the first national parks established in the world. Sadly, they together cover only about 9 400 square kilometers of mostly non- or low-productive land, comprising roughly 2 % of Sweden. This shows what a small amount of Sweden that is actually protected. The rest of the country has an intensive forest production where about 90-95 % of trees are cut down before the age of 100 years, with only a patchwork of small nature reserves decicated to protect the endangered species relying on old-growth forest.

An amazing view amidst strong winds near the top of Mt. Nieras inside Stora Sjöfallet National Park.

With that in mind, though, Laponia and its national parks is the last area of largely untouched land in Sweden, and it is quite amazing seeing the vast alpine mountains and fairly large stretches of land that is protected in this area.

For my own part now, field work is finished for the time being and I am back in Uppsala working with new and ongoing projects.

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Yearly roundup: 2018

I hold a guided tour with lynx for Biotopia. Here I show tracks before we head out into the snow.

Full of exciting things, 2018 has now come to a close two weeks ago. Many years ago I started a tradition of looking back upon my past year as the next year was about to start. Here, I continue that tradition and also take a chance of reflecting a bit on biodiversity and conservation.

The usual mix of work, I started the year by censusing large carnivores in Uppsala county for the county board. This involved searching large areas for tracks and scats of wolf and lynx in the winter snow. Since county board staff cannot find everything, we also rely a lot on getting reports from the public, which we then go out and investigate to be sure what actually went by. All in all, we counted 11,5 family groups of lynx along with one wolf pack and a couple of stationary wolves in the county.

Emil shines at a family group of Eurasian lynx in Uppsala county in February 2018.

I also did a couple of other wildlife surveys out by the coast and another survey in Uppsala county for Svensk Naturförvaltning AB, a company I have collaborated with since 2010. Field work is often nice and relaxing as I don’t have to think about solving world problems. And maybe the best thing is that you get to see a lot. Out doing field work by the coast, for example, I was lucky enough to spot the elusive Eurasian lynx out in the wild. Amazingly, this cat came up to me while I was sitting in my car, and it began sniffing my left hind tire just a meter and a half away.

Earlier the same winter, while out spotting for wildlife, I had also managed to see lynx twice. In one instance, we saw a female with two cubs playing in the snow. These are some of the most amazing nature experiences that I have had. It makes me happy seeing that there is at least a little bit of the wild left in the world.

The EAZA Conservation Forum 2018 in Estonia provided a good backbone of talks about biodiversity threats and conservation action.

Unfortunately, the situation for the world’s biodiversity is not so positive. Species are declining at an alarming rate and global warming is tightening its grip on the world, making the situation even worse. 2018 was perhaps the driest year in recorded history in Sweden. This caused many wildfires and I came across one day in July while biking through a nature reserve just a kilometer or two from Uppsala. Climate change is having real effects on the world and humanity is at the same time digging its own grave by not changing things today.

In general, you can say that in terms of biodiversity conservation, the world is facing two major challenges: overpopulation and our increasing per capita consumption of natural resources. These two combined will summarize most threats biodiversity is facing today. Yet we are going in the wrong direction with both. How can we resolve this crisis?

During a visit with the course, Johan Wallén at the Arctic Fox Project at Stockholm University talks arctic foxes and the work they are doing on this species, a species that is to a large degree affected by climate change.

I was lucky to get a grant to attend the EAZA Conservation Forum in Estonia in late May. People from across the world talked threats to conservation and conservation work. Inspiring, yet also sad, I came home with about 20 more ideas for various projects.

Back home in Sweden, I did some guided tours with beavers in Uppsala. The beaver is an ecosystem engineer that has made its comeback to Sweden in the 20th century after being wiped out. The last beaver was shot in 1871 (it, ironically, got formal protection in 1873). It was reintroduced in the 1920s and is now quite well-spread. It is now having a (mostly) positive effect on the country’s biodiversity.

In a cooperative project with the County Board of Värmland, Natur- och faunavårdslinjen at Klarälvdalens folkhögskola censused otters in northern Värmland. Here are tracks we found in the sand one day in November.

Other tours I did during the year were one guided lynx tour and a guided wolf tour in the winter and two wildlife safaris during the late summer. In the latter we focused on finding red deer, another species that was almost entirely wiped out earlier due to over-hunting.

Beginning in September, I ended up teaching nature conservation for Natur- och faunavårdslinjen at Klarälvdalens folkhögskola in Värmland. Some of the things we did were carnivore tourism, wildlife censusing techniques, biodiversity, threats and conservation, rhetorics, photography, Adobe Photoshop, layout, Adobe Indesign and other things. We also visited various places around Sweden, among them Uppsala (Biotopia, Aspprojektet, the State Veterinary Institute and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) and Stockholm (the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, Greenpeace, the Arctic Fox Project at Stockholm University, the Swedish parliament and the Museum of Natural History), plus later trips to Nordens Ark, Lovéncentret Kristineberg and Grimsö Wildlife Research Station.

The European bison is another species that has been hunted to extinction in Sweden. Here, Natur- och faunavårdslinjen is visiting the conservation station Nordens Ark on the west coast, talking, among other things, possibilities of reintroducing animals.

There was not so much time for other work in the fall, but I did hold a talk about freelancing with nature conservation for Uppsala university as well as talked large carnivores at Biotopia one day.

So that quickly summarizes what has been an interesting and inspiring year for me. I am looking forward to many new exciting projects now in 2019, as well as hopefully finishing several ongoing projects.

I wish you the best for 2019! 🙂

Jonatan

 

 

 

Teaching biodiversity conservation

Anders Larsson at the asp project in Uppsala talks fish conservation and how to remove barriers for migrating fish.

Once again, a lot has happened after this period of silence. I am currently involved with teaching biodiversity conservation and wildlife and nature surveying methodology at Natur- och faunavårdslinjen at Klarälvdalens folkhögskola, since September.

Some of the things we have done in the past month have been otter censusing, scat censusing technique of moose, wildlife foraging on trees, talking biodiversity conservation, rhetorics, Swedish environmental goals and Agenda 2030. We have also done visits to Biotopia, the State Veterinary Institute and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences among other places. Next up will be a larger otter census, visits in Stockholm, Nordens Ark and the Lovén Kristineberg marine biology research center on the west coast, and later on Grimsö Wildlife Research Station.

Göran Hartman at the Swedish University of Agricultral Sciences talks Eurasian beavers and their role in the ecosystems.

This work has taken up most of my time so far this semester, although we also did two wildlife safaris with Biotopia in September. Later on in the season you might find me a bit more at Biotopia in Uppsala during their large carnivore theme. So please come by there and talk large carnivores. There are other things going on, but that’s for a later update.

Caroline Bröjer at the State Veterinary Institute in Uppsala talks about their work and shows animals that they have received.

 

 

 

 

Beaver safari in Fyrisån

A beaver right ahead.

This summer Biotopia in Uppsala is offering beaver safaris in Fyrisån.

I had the first group out this Wednesday and we had several great observations. We had one beaver following our kayaks for about 30 minutes as we made our way downstream. Later on in the evening, some even got to see a beaver as close as one meter away!

In the video below you can see a beaver swimming just a few meters to the left, from the tour on Wednesday.

There are another two chances to join these safaris on 8 August and 15 August.

It is now time for me to grab a summer break. See you in August!

 

Field work and EAZA Conservation Forum 2018

One day I had the privilege of biking out to the nature reserve Nåsten to measure wildlife foraging on trees.

June! It’s summer! And it has been another two months since the last update. What has been going on since? Read on to see.

Kicking off May I did a scat survey in north-eastern Uppland looking mainly at moose, roe deer, wild boar and hare. While out working one day I was lucky enough to have a rare Eurasian lynx go up to my car while I was having a break. The cat stopped to sniff the car just two meters from where I was sitting. It was one of the most amazing wildlife moments I have had (sorry, pictures will have to be saved for a future project, hehe).

Tallinn Zoo, where the EAZA Conservation Forum 2018 was hosted, has a reintroduction project for the European mink, a species that has disappeared from large areas of its former range. Here they show the breeding facility.

After finishing off the scat census I then went on to work with moose foraging on trees. I did this for a couple of weeks in western Uppsala county. Logging companies are interesting in measuring this since, in their view, the trees are damaged by wildlife, causing an economic burden. Moose, especially, like to forage on Scots pine trees. Spruce trees are generally left alone, and this is why most companies nowadays plant pine trees.

Jörg Freyhof talks freshwater conservation at the EAZA Conservation Forum 2018. It is of certain interest since freshwater species are declining faster than most other groups.

Also worth noting is that this May was the warmest recorded in many places since the readings began in Sweden. Some places had more than two degrees Celsius above the previously warmest record. Global warming is tightening its grip on the world, leading to more extreme weather. While there can be some “positive” effects of this for countries such as Sweden – more productive agriculture for example – for the vast majority of countries it will lead to a worsening situation for both biodiversity and agriculture, and, thus, people. Consequently, May was also one of the driest months in Sweden, causing problems for many farmers, possibly negating the potential for higher yields.

At the end of May I traveled to Estonia to participate in the EAZA Conservation Forum. Exerts from around the world talked animals, projects and conservation. While biodiversity is generally a depressing field since it is mostly going down-hill, there were some positives notes and I came back with a lot of good ideas. I wish to thank Svenska Journalistförbundet for the generous grant allowing me to participate in the forum.

Out working in the field one day I came across the largest Scots pine tree I have ever seen. It measured 390 centimeters around the stem. Sweden has almost no old pine trees left since it has been ravaged by intensive logging. All pine trees are cut down between the ages of 60-100 years, while the trees can actually live for many hundreds of years.

On Wednesday I will have a guided tour searching for beavers in Fyrisån in Uppsala, organized by Biotopia. You can see more and sign up here. There will also be another couple of chances for this in August. Then as this week comes to a close it is time for a summer break.

 

The past two months

Spotting for lynx in March.

It’s been a while since I last wrote here. I’ve been quite busy with a lot of different things in the past two months.

Last week I was in Värmland and Gävleborg teaching carnivore tourism for a group of nature students. Before that I was spending quite a lot of time inside writing the report for the puma project I did last year. The lynx census finished at the end of February and there was a little bit of work left with counting wolves in March, but now these censuses are done for the season.

Sara Wennerqvist at Wild Nordic talks bear tourism for a group of nature students in April.

Now I’m at my office in Uppsala doing administrative work and planning for future projects. Once all the remaining snow is gone we will be doing a shorter wildlife census based on scats out by the coast. But for now, I will be enjoying a time of more tranquility.

A wolf says Hi during a visit to Järvzoo in April.

Lynx and wolf tours

I’m showing the group typical tracks from Eurasian lynx. Photo: Biotopia.

This last Saturday we organized a guided tour with Eurasian lynx in Uppsala county. The event was put together by Biotopia.

We started the day with looking at typical tracks from lynx and wolf. Then we headed out into the field and soon came across tracks from red fox, roe deer, badger and other animals.

We found fresh tracks from lynx. From top to bottom: the right hind paw, right front paw, left hind paw and left front paw. Photo: Biotopia.

Not so long after, we discovered fresh tracks from a lynx that walked there just a few hours prior. We back-tracked the lynx, looking at its behaviour, scent marks, scats and other things. It was a great day out in the field.

The week before this lynx tour we did one with gray wolf in the northern parts of the county, in the area where the only wolf pack in Uppsala county lives.

We had delicious food prepared by Elles utemat. Photo: Biotopia.

We might organize more of these events in the coming winter season. Shoot me or Biotopia an email if you think it might be interesting to join in some time.