Study: Tallinn home to exceptionally high wildlife numbers

Moose seen swimming at Pirita Beach in Tallinn.
Moose seen swimming at Pirita Beach in Tallinn. Source: Henry-Laur Allik/ERR

According to the results of a recent study, Tallinn's green areas are home to several hundred foxes, deer and hares as well as up to 50 moose. What makes the Estonian capital unique in Europe is that Tallinn is also home to beavers, and even lynx and bears passing through can be found in the city.

Commissioned by the City of Tallinn, Elusloodus OÜ studied the city's 20 biggest green areas, where they registered the presence of 20 species of mammal. Over the course of the five-year study, some 1,500 mammals in all were registered in the capital.

"These are significant figures for a country's capital," the authors of the study noted. "What is particularly remarkable, however, is that this capital has a permanent population of 20-30 moose and more than 300 roe deer."

Brown bears and lynx end up in Tallinn from time to time as well, they highlighted.

"All of this indicates that Tallinn has by no means lost the opportunity to be a so-called nature city in addition to being a country's capital, where city dwellers can live together with diverse mammalian fauna," the authors said.

Also more unusual for a European capital is its populations of 20-30 beavers and nearly 50 mountain hares, which typically live in forests. The authors of the study noted that such a large population of mountain hares indicates that Tallinn's larger forests still provide enough shelter and have not all been turned into park forests lacking undergrowth.

Likewise unusual is the presence in the capital of several badger burrow systems.

The study confirmed that Tallinn territory is also home to a considerable number of large game animals. The city's moose population is among the largest thereof at up to 50 animals, including so-called occasional visitors.

Some 30 moose are permanent residents of Tallinn's green areas, most of whom live east of the Pirita River; very few were found living in western and southern parts of the city.

Of large game, the roe deer population is the city's biggest at an estimated up to 350 animals. As roe deer very likely live in parts of the city outside of Tallinn's green areas as well, their total population could actually be as high as 400. There are more roe deer living in Tallinn's green areas than even hares, hedgehogs, squirrels or foxes.

Wild boar numbers to grow

Of large predators, both bears and lynx have been seen in Tallinn, but neither is a permanent resident there.

During the five-year study period, there was only one report of brown bears in the city — which came in from the Haabersti District neighborhood of Kakumäe, after a mother bear and her cubs had ended up in Õismäe Bog.

The city's green areas are too small a territory for the Eurasian lynx as well, which only passes through Tallinn to mark the borders of its territory or while hunting.

There are no gray wolves in Tallinn, meanwhile, not even passing through. Nonetheless, up to five golden jackals were determined to live in the Estonian capital, based on reports as well as signs of activity.

The city is home to large numbers of foxes, however, as it is increasingly urbanizing throughout most of Europe. Up to 200 foxes live in Tallinn's green areas, however the total population is surely larger, the study noted.

"As foxes in urban environments have adapted to nesting in different places than their natural dens — such as basements, sheds, under houses, in garbage heaps, etc. — it isn't possible to assess the number of nesting sites or litters either, but what's clear is that foxes are definitely reproducing within Tallinn city limits as well," it read.

Notably, the authors of the study predict the city's wild boar numbers to grow. As the entire country's wild boar population continues to recover from outbreaks of disease, "just" 15 wild boar were found to currently live in Tallinn.

"At the same time, it's very likely that in the next few years, as the abundance of wild boar elsewhere in Estonia grows, it will start growing in Tallinn as well," the study noted.

Teed ületavatele siilidele tähelepanu juhtiv hoiatusmärk Maarjamäel. Autor/allikas: Urmet Kook/ERR

According to the study, Tallinn is home to up to 30 beavers, as many common raccoon dogs, up to 15 badgers and around ten Eurasian otters.

Reports of hedgehogs reproducing in Kalamaja, Nõmme

Hedgehogs are traditionally more widespread in Southern Estonia, and only around 100 were documented in the study of Tallinn's green areas. They are certainly present in the capital city's residential and suburban areas as well, however, and their total population is estimated to be several times higher than identified by the survey.

Hedgehogs seem to be doing well in the Estonian capital.

"Based on the available data, it can safely be said that hedgehogs are reproducing in Tallinn as well," the study notes. "We are aware of isolated reports of this both on social media and directly from casual observers in Kalamaja as well as in Nõmme and Laagri."

According to the authors of the study, an estimated 100-150 hedgehogs live in and around those areas, but as there are plenty of habitats as or even more suitable for hedgehogs than the green areas covered by this study, it wasn't possible for them to calculate true hedgehog totals in Tallinn, which they estimate to be several times higher.

The Estonian capital is home to a surprising number of hares for a major city — up to 300 European and mountain hares combined — the study noted, adding that one reason for this may be the fact that European rabbits, who in several European cities have taken over wild hares' "urban ecological niche," have not yet gained a foothold in Tallinn.

Of the 24 species of mammal the authors of the study were tasked by the City of Tallinn with counting, just four were not registered as being present in the Estonian capital's green areas: the gray wolf, the beech marten, the stoat or Eurasian ermine and the red deer.

Tallinn is home to approximately one third of mammalian species that live in Estonia.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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