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largest of the eight ecozones constituting the Earth's surface
Travel topics > Natural attractions > Eurasian wildlife
The Palearctic Realm

Eurasian wildlife is made up by wild organisms of the Palearctic Region, which includes Europe and North Africa, as well as much of Asia (Asian Russia, the northern Middle East, Central Asia and most of East Asia). South and Southeast Asia make up the Indomalayan region. Sub-Saharan Africa and the Arabian peninsula make up the Afrotropic region.

UnderstandEdit

The Palearctic region has several climate zones from north to south. Most of them stretch all across the Afro-Eurasian landmass, from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

  • The Arctic tundra. Winters are long and freezing, and even summers are cold, with average temperatures below 10 °C (50 °F) all year
  • The taiga; a belt of conifer forest covering much of the Nordic countries and Russia, as well as northeast China. Climate is boreal with freezing winters, and short warm summers
  • A temperate zone naturally covered by broadleaf forests and temperate grasslands. As most of this zone is used for farming, natural habitats are rare. Climate is temperate with occasional snow at winter, and warm summers
  • Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers, and cool, rainy winters
  • Subtropical desert climate, hot and dry year round, especially during summer

Many of the Eurasian animals, especially the Arctic and sub-Arctic species, are also prevalent to the North American wildlife in the Nearctic realm.

While western Europe and eastern Asia are very highly exploited by humans, most countries have at least some areas of nature, where wild animals can be seen.

AnimalsEdit

See also: Hiking in the Nordic countries#Wildlife

OmnivoresEdit

 
Running brown bear.

The brown bear (Ursus arctos) is the most widespread bear species, and can be found across Scandinavia, Russia, and the Balkans. Bears can kill human with a single well-placed blow but do not generally act aggressively towards humans unless they feel provoked.

The wild boar (wild swine) can be found across central Europe. A charging wild boar can kill humans and given their propensity to enter human settlements are among the more dangerous animals.

CarnivoresEdit

The wolf (Canis lupus) still has small populations throughout Eurasia, with Russia home to most (over 25,000) and Spain home to a growing population of over 2,000. Wolf populations are establishing themselves in areas that had previously exterminated them, such as Saxony, Brandenburg or even Franconia. Wolves rarely attack humans but folklore gives them an exaggerated dangerous reputation. Hunters and farmers fear the economic damage their attacks on deer and livestock can cause.

The lynx (Lynx lynx) is the largest feline in Europe. Though they are widespread across boreal Eurasia, they are nocturnal, and a rather rare sight.

The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the largest fox, spread across Eurasia as well as North America. As a scavenger and a predator of small animals, it can be seen in human settlements.

The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is among the largest of bears, endemic only to the Arctic. It is one of few species to prey on humans, and people in polar bear country need to carry a gun for their own safety. Svalbard and Novaya Zemlya are among the most likely places to see a wild polar bear.

The wolverine (Gulo gulo) is a bear-like predator and scavenger in tundras and boreal forests. There are several smaller Mustelinae species, such as the European pine marten (Martes martes) and the curious stoat (Mustela erminea).

The snow leopard or ounce (Panthera uncia) is a large cat native to the mountain ranges of Central and South Asia.

The Siberian tiger (Amur tiger, Manchurian tiger) is a threatened tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) population, living particularly in the Sikhote-Alin mountain range in the Russian Far East. The Siberian tiger once ranged throughout Korea, north China, Russian Far East, and eastern Mongolia.

Maritime mammalsEdit

The grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) is widespread around Britain and Ireland, the Benelux, and the Nordic countries, all across the Baltic Sea.

The harbour seal (Phoca vitulina) is widespread along Europe's Atlantic coast, as well as the North Pacific Ocean.

UngulatesEdit

 
Take this warning sign seriously. Do not take it with you.

The elk (known in North America as the moose), Alces alces, is the largest deer. It is endemic in the Nordic countries, the Baltic states, and the Russian taiga. In these regions, it is the most dangerous animal in animal collisions. The road warning signs are iconic to roads in Sweden and Finland, and sometimes stolen by reckless visitors.

The reindeer, Rangifer tarandus, is the only deer whose females carry antlers. There are both wild and domesticated populations; Europe uses "reindeer" for both, while North Americans use "reindeer" for domesticated populations and "caribou" for wild populations. Several indigenous peoples, such as the Sami and the Nenets traditionally herd reindeer. Most of these reindeer are semi-wild, but some are used as beasts of burden and draught animals, and at least traditionally in some areas also for milk. The reindeer has been a very important game, and the first ones domesticated were probably used in hunting to attract wild reindeer. As the local wild populations got extinct, husbandry became more important.

The red deer, Cervus elaphus, is larger than the reindeer but noticeably smaller than the Eurasian elk. It is closely related to, and slightly smaller than, the animal known in North America as the elk (Cervus canadensis). It is widespread throughout the continent except in boreal forests and tundra regions, and its range also extends into Turkey, Iran, central Asia, and the Atlas Mountains of North Africa.

The European bison, also known as the wisent, Bison bonasus, is a bovine which used to be near extinction, but has in the 2000s been reintroduced to forests in Central Europe, Spain, Russia, and the Caucasus. With only a few thousand head worldwide, it is still a rare sight.

RodentsEdit

The European beaver, Castor fiber, leaves clearly visible traces in the form of nests, dams, and felled trees. The animal itself is difficult to spot; sitting still and silent in a boat gives the best chance to see a live beaver.

DestinationsEdit

Map of Eurasian wildlife

Especially Russia and Central Asia contain vast tracts of wilderness with plants and animals in their natural habitat. Most countries have zoos which display local fauna. This list is limited to natural reserves and national parks of local or global significance.

  • 2 Plitvice Lakes National Park (Croatia). Turquoise lakes. UNESCO heritage site and also the place in which many 1960s "Kraut-Western", particularly the Winnetou movies were shot.    
  • 8 Crete (Greece). Vultures, wild goats, tortoises and other Mediterranean animals.    
  • 9 Svalbard (Arctic Ocean, part of Norway). One of few settled areas where polar bears are roaming.    
  • 11 Heligoland (North Sea, part of Germany). Crowded with birds, important breeding grounds for several species  
  • 12 Wrangel Island (Chukotka, Russian Far East). Home to over 400 rare plant species, as well as Pacific walrus, polar bears, and grey whales.    

See alsoEdit