Despite new habitat finds, flying squirrel still endangered in Estonia
In the course of springtime monitoring in the Viru region, the State Forest Management Center (RMK) has found evidence of flying squirrel activity in nine new locations.
The goal of flying squirrel monitoring conducted on 750 hectares of land this spring was to discover habitats of the flying squirrel, a species under Category I protection in Estonia, in state forests in order to restrict forestry activities there, RMK Species Conservation Specialist Margus Pensa said.
Flying squirrel protection expert Uudo Timm told ERR's online science and research portal Novaator that Estonia's flying squirrel population has increased from 27 known habitats in 2013 to more than 70 first and foremost due to the fact that since the beginning of the century, logging has been restricted in flying squirrel corridors.
"If it were spread across Estonia, then it could be said that its status has improved, but currently it nonetheless remains an endangered species," Pensa said.
The discovery of new habitats, however, does not mean that the flying squirrel population — which once encompassed all of the Estonian mainland — soon won't be endangered anymore.
"The flying squirrel is nevertheless an endangered species in Estonia because its habitat is very narrow, limited only to the Alutaguse region," the RMK specialist explained. "In terms of counties, this habitat is Ida-Viru County, first and foremost southern Ida-Viru County, the eastern edge of Lääne-Viru County, and the northern edge of Jõgeva County."
Tips regarding the nocturnal mammals have also been reported regarding other parts of the Viru region, but these have not been confirmed.
"We occasionally receive one-off tips that flying squirrels have been found in the northern end of Ida-Viru County," Pensa said. "This year, for example, one hunter claimed to have seen one between Jõhvi and Toila. We did go there to check, but could not establish evidence of a flying squirrel there."
The RMK submitted information regarding the new flying squirrel habitats to the Environment Agency, which has the competence to decide whether they will be registered as new locations or whether existing locations will be expanded. Until then, temporary protection measures have been implemented on these locations equal to strictly protected forests.
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Editor: Aili Vahtla