Bear watching is perhaps the most popular and thrilling, of the wildlife themes, but the range is much wider, from gallinaceous (ground feeding game birds) or birds of prey, (often with species uncommon in Southern Europe), to rare mammals like flying squirrel, handsome antler headed moose or wild forest reindeer. A hide is not necessary to watch the wild forest reindeer, flying squirrel and most birds - you can observe them during the guided walks.
Both the large birds of prey and game birds live in the same area. You can also see the Red-throated Diver, the Black-throated Diver, the Siberian Jay, the Siberian Tit and the Crane.
The Beaver (Castor Canadensis), enjoys streaming waters, especially building dams and its nest in them with tree trunks, branches and mud, is quite a jolly-looking rodent. Its distinctive features are the flat, paddle-shaped tail and webbed hind feet. As a rodent the diet of a beaver consists of plants, tree bark, buds and leaves. Beavers are usually observed from a hide set near to their nest. During the lights nights they can be observed toiling and playing for many hours. The season starts in April and continues until the winter.
Birds of prey
The birds of prey nest in the coniferous forest belt and many of them can be observed in the Wild Taiga area as well. Hawks and owls are a familiar sight in the eastern Finland sky and forest. The owls are easiest to observe in the beginning of summer. Separate hides have been put up for photographing the Golden Eagle in the winter. With some luck the Golden Eagle and its nest may be found in an old dried up pine tree. White-tailed Eagle and the Kite can be observed from the bear watching sites.
Black grouse, capercaillie, hazel grouse and willow grouse are the most common gallinaceous (Game) birds in Kainuu. This is because of the vast uninhabited wilderness areas in the region. Among others the capercaillie, Finland´s largest gallinaceous bird, needs vast forest areas for lekking (breeding). Black grouse can be found in humid forests and near swamp areas, as well as in birch forests in the winter. The capercaillie and black grouse leks are observed from small hides or tents early in the morning just after sunrise. Their magnificent feathering displays and rituals are impressive. The best photographs are taken through the lekking season which is April to May.
THE FLYING SQUIRREL
The Flying Squirrel is a squirrel species only found in Finland and Estonia within Europe. Flying squirrels can be seen in Kuhmo, but only in small numbers. In Kainuu it is usually observed by its nest or feeding place. The Flying Squirrel starts from its nest at sunset and you can see it literally floating from one tree to another. The Flying Squirrel can fly up to 75 metres, but when on ground it is clumsy. Walking tours to see the flying squirrels are arranged throughout the season.
THE MOOSE AND THE WILD FOREST REINDEER
The Moose or Elk (Alces alces) is the largest member of the deer family found in Finland and throughout Europe. They are distinguished by the palmate antlers of the males rather then the thinner branched antlers of the deer. It is extremely well adapted to the northern snowy areas, as its hair is hollow and thus insulates against the extreme cold. With the help of its long legs the Moose is able to walk in the snow, swamps and bush. Pastures have been found where crops lure the Moose to come and eat to give the best photographing opportunities possible. The best seasons for watching elks are spring and autumn, at dawn and dusk.
Previously hunted almost to extinction the Wild Forest Reindeer, (Rangifer Tarandus Fennicus, often called the deer in Finland) now lives solely in the Wild Taiga area and Russian Karelia, with a population of approximately 700 animals. The Forest Reindeer can be separated from other Reindeer by their slightly bigger size and longer legs. Watching and photographing the Forest Reindeer is possible all year round with the help of trained guides.
THE WHITE WHALE
You can also make a tour from Wild Taiga to the White Sea in North-West Russia to observe the White Whale in its natural habitat by the shores of Solovetski Convent Island.
The white whale observation trips are arranged in summer and are easily made through the international border crossing point Vartius, located in Kuhmo. You can combine whale watching with a trip to the convent found in the 15th century. The trip requires visa to Russia.