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October, 12, 2017

A Hairy Bat and a Falcon Changing Colors: Rare Species of the Western Coast of Lake Baikal

Pribaikalsky National Park is a specially protected natural area and also a home to many species listed on the Red Book of Irkutsk Oblast and the Red Book of Russia.

“Key to Baikal” made a selection of the most interesting living creatures and plants living in the national park.

Amphibians

Siberian Toad (Bufo raddei Strauch); Red Book of Irkutsk Oblast

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All populations are located on the territory of the Pribaikalsky National Park.

It is a real relic of remote geological epoch which has survived until today. The northern limit of distribution of the Siberian toad goes along the Southern Cisbaikalia. There are several small populations of this species there, on the periphery of its extensive range, these populations are of relic origin. The toad inhabits the Tazheran steppe massif, including the coast of Maloe More and the southern part of the Island of Olkhon, there are some known local settlements from the lower reaches (right bank) of the Anga River to the left bank of the Sarma River.

The species is not numerous even in the optimal habitats of Irkutsk Oblast. The severe climatic conditions of the region restrain the growth of abundance of this species on the Baikal coast. In addition, natural reasons have been aggravated by the increased anthropogenic load in recent years.

Reptiles

Pallas’ coluber (Elaphe dione Pallas); Red Book of Irkutsk Oblast

Two of the three habitats of the Pallas’ coluber are located on the territory of the Pribaikalsky National Park:  the Island of Olkhon and the territory around it.

This elegant and harmless snake can rightly be considered an ornament of the Baikal coast. It climbs well and moves quickly both along the branches of trees and on the ground, swims and dives perfectly well. These snakes can be seen on the coast of Lake Baikal among the stones and algae washed ashore in about late June - early July.

The most significant factor in reduction of the number of the Pallas’ coluber is direct hunting and its extermination by humans.

Mammals

Greater (Siberian) Tube-nosed Bat (Murina hilgendorfi Peters);  Red Book of Irkutsk Oblast

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One of the most mysterious bats of medium size with wide wings and long tousled fur. It lives in the forests on a mountainous or hilly terrain, hunts in the lower tier of the forest or runs around on the ground! It is distinguished by a slow flight at low altitudes with occasional “hovering” in one place. It hibernates in caves, and it is still unknown where it gives birth to its offspring. We know only that the young ones appear in July. On the territory of the Pribaikalsky National Park this species has been found in the Okhotnichya (“Hunting”) cave.

 

Olkhon Field Mouse (Alticola olchonensis Litvinov); Red Book of Irkutsk Oblast

All the populations of the Olkhon field mice are located on the territory of the Pribaikalsky National Park. This is the only endemic species of mammals in Irkutsk Oblast, a relic of the Quaternary period, the origin of which is associated with the origin of Lake Baikal. Olkhon field mouse has a small range; its main habitat is presented by rocky outcrops and stony deposits in Tazheranskaya steppe, on the islands of the Maloye More Strait and on the Island of Olkhon.

There has been a tendency to reduction of suitable habitats of the Olkhon field mice and reduction of their range in recent years. Studies show that one of the factors leading to the reduction in the number of Olkhon field mouse is the growth of anthropogenic load in the park. Tourists often use stones from the deposits populated by field mice for the construction of stone pyramids, which leads to the destruction of habitats of this rare species. According to experts, the number of field mice does not exceed 1000-1500 animals and is steadily shrinking.

Plants

Zunduk hedysarum (Hedysarum zundukii Peschkova); Red Book of Russia

Zunduk hedysarum is a relic of the Miocene desert-steppe flora, the indigenous endemic of the world’s only habitat of the species on the limestone slope of the Zunduk River drift cone.

The Russian name of this plant is due to its bizarre shape (“kopeechnik”, which hints to its resemblance of small coins). This is a perennial, undersized, stemless plant, growing on the slopes covered with crushed stones. Since there are few such areas, the range of this plant is very limited.

Olkhon Astrgal (Astragalus olchonensis Gontsch); Red Book of Russia

It grows only on the western coast of the Olkhon Island. All populations are located on the territory of the Pribaikalsky National Park.

It is a perennial herbaceous plant. It grows on wind-blown sands, sand dunes. The state of the populations is unstable, depending on the mobility of the coastal dunes. The most part of the habitat is subject to significant anthropogenic load. The main threats include recreational use of the species’ habitats, cattle grazing.

Birds

Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca Savigny); Red Book of Russia

A large eagle, its name in Latin means “sunny”, in many European languages ​​it is called “imperial eagle”.

On the territory of the Pribaikalsky National Park the bird has been noticed within the Olkhon region. In the Baikal region the eagle was considered sacred by Buryats and was protected by the local population. Many of their fairy-tales and legends are associated with this eagle. At the beginning of XIX century the imperial eagle in Russia was simply called “eagle”. The Russian name (connected with burial grounds), most likely, appeared later, when Russian naturalists often met these eagles sitting on the trees near stone or sun-dried mausoleums. The name has clung to the bird, although in recent years some experts speak in favor of giving it a more euphonious name – “sunny” or” imperial”.

Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug Gray); Red Book of Russia

The species is globally rare. Saker falcon is a large falcon having a variable color: from dark brown to rusty gray. The necessary conditions for its nesting are the presence of forest areas with the nests of predatory birds or rocks, as well as steppe and meadow massifs with settlements of long-tailed ground squirrels. The bird inhabits forest-steppe massifs in Irkutsk Oblast. In past years the nesting of the species was observed on the territory of the Pribaikalsky National Park. The bird has been traditionally used as a hunting falcon, which creates a great demand for the catch of this bird.

 

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