2.4 Animal world

2.4 Animal world

A considerable number of natural landscapes in Lake Baikal basin determine a great diversity of animal species there. The region has 446 vertebrate species, including:

- 348 bird species of 18 orders (4% of the world avifauna);

- 85 mammal species of 7 orders (23% of the world theriofauna);

- 7 vermigrade species of one order (0.1%  reptiles of the world);

- 6 amphibian species of 2 orders [3,4,22].

Mongolian fauna consists of 138 species of mammals, 75 species of fish, 22 species of reptiles, 6 species of amphibians, 472 species of birds, 13 000 species of insects, 516 species of mollusks and protozoa [21].

On the Russian territory of the basin, brown bear (Ursus arctos) inhabits the coastal and northern districts, large forests, in particular, in Eastern Pribaikalie and the Khamar-Daban (pic. 2.4.1) [3,4]. Among different habitats it prefers cedar forests. The brown bear is dormant in winter, digging lairs on dry slopes with sandy and sabulous soil, sometimes under rocks. He starts hibernation in the latter half of October, usually before the first big snow and leaves the lair in April or May. The oestrum period is in June or July, cubs are born in January-February. The number of cubs is1-3, most commonly 2. It feeds on vegetation and animal food. In the years of poor harvest of berries and nuts, insomniac bears may wander around. The bears wander alone on an area of about 70-400 km2. The number of brown bears is growing at present – from 2690 animals in 2001 to 4878 in 2010.

Pic. 2.4.1 The brown bear

By taxonomic parameters, the reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) inhabiting the Russian territory of the basin, is identified as Rangifer tarandus (pic. 2.4.2) [3,4]. Today, reindeers dwell in the disparate sections of mountain areas, including Ulan-Burgasy, Ikatsky, Barguzinsky, Severobaikalsky, Vitimsky and Muysky mountain ranges. Since the reindeer inhabits isolated and remote places, the assessment of the present-day number is based not only on the data of winter route tracking, experts emphasized gathering survey data from forest managers of natural protected territories and hunters. The number over the last five years was 16-19 thousand animals. The results of the winter route tracking in 2012 revealed the number of 18417 animals, which is in agreement with the assessment by forest managers and hunters.

Pic. 2.4.2 The reindeer

Red deer (Cervus elaphus xanthopygus) migrates seasonally from the zone of bald mountains to the foothills of mountain ranges, concentrating in the area of little snow with ample fodder reserves and minimal disturbing factors (pic. 2.4.3) [3,4].

Pic. 2.4.3 The red deer

According to the assessment of forest managers, the lengthy and high snow cover in the winter period of 2010-2012 caused forced migration of the red deer to the hitherto uncharacteristic areas of little snow, more favorable habitats (pic. 2.4.4). Thus, forced migration of the red deer led to the growth in number of intersections on the permanent routes, which impacted the winter route tracking assessment in 2011-2012 and made it difficult to assess the number of animals.

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Pic. 2.4.4 Hunting resources [1]

The bore (Sus scrofa) is widely spread on the Russian territory of the basin (pic. 2.4.5) [3,4]. The distribution areal of the bore has been influenced by agricultural practices. The poorly harvested crops in some areas produced a good fodder basis for the bore and allowed it proliferate in the hitherto less available places. In the dynamics of the last ten years the number of bores rose from 4 to 8 thousand animals. At present, the number tends to grow and according to the 2012 data the number of bores is estimated at 8508.

Pic. 2.4.5 The bore

Musk deer (Moschus moschiferus) was listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (2003) as an «endangered» species due to the considerable amount of international trade in products derived from it (pic. 2.4.6) [3,4]. Considering these circumstances, the counting of musk deer is conducted based on the methods adapted to the biological peculiarities of this animal. According to the winter route tracking of 2012, the number of musk deer was 16.4 thousand animals, which is higher than the average long-term number over the last ten years. These data suggest stability in the number of animals, even though the musk deer population is affected by forest cutting and frequent forest fires.

In Mongolia found in Khentii, Khuvsgul, and Khangai mountain ranges, some mountain forests in the southern part of Mongol Altai.

Pic. 2.4.6 The musk deer

Siberian roe deer (Capreolus pugargus) is the most widely spread animal among large mammals in Buryatia (pic. 2.4.7). The area of distribution covers the whole territory of the Russian part of the basin. In spring, following the boundary of snow melting roe deer migrate from valleys to mountains and elevated wetlands, which serve them as protection, providing less sources of disturbance and simultaneously a good fodder basis and ample water sources [3,4].  Thus, watershed ranges provide home not only to the roe deer, but also all the hoofed animals. In autumn, starting from the end of August, roe deer migrate to their winter habitats in small groups of 2-4. Migration is usually started by females with calves born in the year, while males migrate later on. The period of autumn migration is usually from September to December, and spring migration is from March to May. According to the assessment of 2012, the number of roe deer was 42873 animals.

Pic. 2.4.7 The Siberian roe deer

The territory of the basin is the habitat of one of the four biggest mammals in the country – East Siberian elk (Alces alces) (pic. 2.4.8). Seasonal migrations of the elk are determined by the availability of fodder [3,4]. The habitat of elk is usually dominated by young coniferous forests, pine, larch, aspen trees and elks particularly tend to dwell in burnt-out places, in the thickets of low-height birch, shrubs, meadows and river valleys. In summer, life of the elk is closely related with lakes and rivers. In addition to the availability of fodder, the areal distribution of elk is also determined by snow cover and anthropogenic impact. The number of animals over the last ten years varies from 6 to 8.5 thousand animals, which has to do with the above mentioned biotic and abiotic factors. According to 2012 assessment, the number of elks in the republic was 7851 animals. Widespread in northern Mongolia

Pic. 2.4.8 The elk

The territory of the basin is home to squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), which inhabits mountain larch forests of Dahurian larch as well as cedar, pine and larch-pine forests (pic. 2.4.9). The dynamics of squirrel number over the five years varies within 145-170 thousand animals [3,4]. According to the data of the winter route tracking in 2012, the number of squirrels was estimated at 161.6 thousand animals. The number tends to fluctuate in cycles depending on solar activity and the fodder productivity.

Pic. 2.4.9 The squirrel

Dynamics in the number of mountain hare has a cyclic character with the decade-long growth cycles (pic. 2.4.10). The major causes influencing the reproduction of the species are climatic conditions in spring-summer period, having to do with the birth of the young and their first days of life [3,4]. The dynamics of the species within the last ten years vary within 37 to 95 thousand animals. According to the assessment of 2012, the number of mountain hare showed a decreasing trend and was estimated at 43.5 thousand animals, which is higher than the figure for 2011, yet lower than for the previous 5years.

Pic. 2.4.10 The mountain hare

The habitat of sable (Martes zibellina) on the territory of the basin is cedar forests on the stony soil, cedar elfin wood, old burned places with coniferous and deciduous trees, larch-fir and pine-cedar forests with stony deposits (pic. 2.4.11). The number of sable over the last ten years has varied considerably across years. According to the assessment of 2012, the number of animals was 22.5 thousand, which is about the same for the preceding year [3,4]. In the winter period, both in 2011 and 2012, there were no signs of considerable vertical migrations of sable. Considering the ten-year dynamics, the number of sable in 2012 remained above the average level.

Pic. 2.4.11 The sable

Ermine (Mustela erminea) inhabits mountain-taiga, forest-steppe biotopes, on stony deposits. Forest cutting is advantageous for the ermine [3,4]. However, it has been clearly identified that in dark coniferous forests and pure cedar forests ermine is rarely observed. It is virtually not to be found in the area with the high concentration of sable. Within the last ten years, the number of sable has varied from 9 to 15 thousand animals which is typical for fur-bearing animals. According to the 2012 assessment, the number of ermine is estimated at around 10 thousand animals, which is higher than their number in the previous 2 years.

Siberian weasel (Mustela sibirica) is widely spread [3,4]. In taiga, forest-steppe and mountainous areas it can be observed in the river valleys, brooks, stony deposits, overgrowing burned places, river banks and shores of lakes and shrubs. It can be seldom found in dark coniferous forests and mixed taiga, as its main competitor here is the sable. It does not dwell on barren mountains and dry steppes. According to the state monitoring, the number of Siberian weasel was 7310 in 2012, which is above the level for the previous four years. There is no specifically organized hunting of the weasel, as the reproduction of weasel runs in parallel with the reproduction of other animals.

Fox (Vulpes vulpes) is spread across the whole territory of the basin, however, the distribution is uneven [3,4]. During the ten years preceding 2012, the number of foxes has risen, particularly in the last three years, reaching 5290 animals in 2012. The amount of production through hunting also varies from 100 to 800 animals, which is explained by the high demand for the fur on the market and price politics. Due to shrinking demand and low purchasing cost for the fur over the last four years, the amount of production dropped and averaged at no more than 200 animals per year.

The wolf (Canis lupus) is widely distributed, inhabiting all the districts of the basin. In the course of many years, the state authorities of the Buryat Republic have taken measures to regulate the population of wolves [3,4]. On average, the amount of production was 300-400 animals annually during 1995-2005. In 2006-2007, the amount dropped to110-140 animals. In most cases, guns are used for hunting. According to the assessments, the number of wolves was 2517 animals at the beginning of 2012, which testifies to the efficiency of regulation measures. At the same time, some further regulation measures are required, considering frequent migrations of wolf packs from the neighboring regions and Mongolia, to reduce possible damage to agriculture and hunting grounds.

The state of lynx (Felis lunx) habitat in the region can be considered satisfactory [3,4]. The most typical landscape habitats include mountains, pine and larch forest-steppe, pure and mixed forests, lowlands on the slopes of hills, sometimes intersected by cut or burned area, where young aspen and birch trees grow. During the last ten years, the number was stable and varied from 630 to 1300 animals. In 2012, the number of lynx was estimated at 1258, which was higher than for the previous year but about the same as during the preceding six years.

The distribution area of Siberian marmot (Marmota sibirica) on the Russian part of the basin is 32.3 thousand ha [3,4]. There are around 20-30 thousand marmots. The number of animals may vary. Spring counting of 2012 was conducted on the territory of steppe and forest-steppe districts of the republic, where the number of marmot was estimated at 20166.

Wild Przewalski's horse (Equus ferus przewalskii)  that inhabits semidesert steppe and steppe. Found in Hustai mountain range located in Altanbulag soum of Tuv aimag (pic. 2.4.12) [23].

Pic. 2.4.12 The Przewalski's horse

Birds are the most diverse group of fauna on the Russian part of the basin [3,4]. Of 348 species, 260 are breeding birds, 34 are birds of passage, 7 wintering, 1 is flying and 46 are vagrant.

Grouse as a typical forest bird, leading a secluded way of life and spending most of the time, especially in summer, on land. In the period of collecting gastorolites, when the birds come to the sand bars and roads, grouse is rarely found. The number of grouse in the republic is recovering now after the forest fires of 2003-2004 and was estimated at 150.5 thousand in 2012. The winter period of 2012 was good for the grouse and it did not affect the number and reproduction conditions of the bird.

According to the assessment of 2011, the number of black grouse reached 311.8 thousand [3]. According to the state monitoring data, there were 252.7 thousand animals in 2012, which is comparable to the level of 2009-2010 and can be considered as the most plausible estimation. The analysis revealed that black grouse hunting is of little significance in the republic and the bird is hunted simultaneously during hunting for other animals. Overall, thanks to the favorable conditions during the last five years, the number of black grouse rose significantly.

Hazel grouse is a typical forest bird leading a secluded way of life and spending most of the time on the land. The number of the bird is subject to cyclic fluctuations. Based on the assessments of 2004, 2006 and 2008, the number of hazel grouse has been on the decline and was estimated to be one thousand birds. According to the same assessment, the number of hazel grouse rose in 2009-2012. Hazel grouse hunting is not practiced, it is concurrently done while hunting fur-bearing animals. The exception is hunting with the use of the call.

Dahurian partridge is sedentary species making short-distance and non-regular migratory trips [3]. The number of partridge has been declining during the last 3 years after reaching its maximum in 2009. According to the state monitoring of 2012, the number of Dahurian partridge was 78.4 thousand. The number has been about the same during the last 15 years.

Short-toed snake-eagle (Circaetus gallicus). Found in the west-south part of Khentii mountains during reproduction period. Generally inhabits Selenga river valley. During summer and laying of eggs, mostly found in Umnugobi aimag, Gobi desert (pic. 2.4.13) [23].

Pic. 2.4.13 The short-toed snake-eagle

Greater spotted eagle (Aguila clanga). A scarce summer visitor and passage migrant, presumably breeding in the taiga and/or forest-steppe of northern Mongolia. Was recorded in Khentii mountains and taiga or forest-steppe area along the Selenga river, in Zavhan, Bulgan, Arkhangai and Tuv aimags [23].

Pallas's Sea(fish)-Eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus) Found along banks of rivers and lakes. Have been spotted near the lakes Khuvsgul, Achit, Khar Us, Khar, Dorgon, Hyargas and Uvs, and the basins of the rivers Zavkhan, Kharaa, Tuul, and Orkhon [23].



  1. Ecological atlas of the Lake Baikal basin – Irkutsk: Institute of Geography SB RAS. 2014. http://bic.iwlearn.org/ru/atlas/atlas
  2. Garmaev E.Z., Khristoforov A.V. Water resources of the rivers within Lake Baikla basin: basis for their use and protection. Novosibirsk: “Geo” Academic Publishing, 2010. 231 pp.
  3. State report “On the state of Lake Baikal and measures for its conservation in 2012” - Irkutsk. Siberian branch of “Rosgeolfond”, 2013. - pp. 436. http://www.mnr.gov.ru/regulatory/list.php?part=1258 (in Russian)
  4. State report “On the state of Lake Baikal and measures for its conservation in 2013” - Irkutsk. Siberian branch of “Rosgeolfond”,  2014. - pp. 462. http://www.mnr.gov.ru/regulatory/list.php?part=1258 (in Russian)
  5. Tulokhonov A.K., Plyusnin A.M., Namsaraev B.B. et al. The Selenga river delta – the natural filter and indicator of the state of Lake Baikal. Novosibirsk: SB RAS Publishing, 2008. 314 pp.
  6. State report “On the state of the environment and its proptection in the Republic of Buryataia in 2012”. http://minpriroda-rb.ru/upload/iblock/9cb/frmoytmrq2013.pdf (in Russian)
  7. State report “On the state of the environment and its proptection in the Republic of Buryataia in 2013”. http://minpriroda-rb.ru/upload/iblock/26b/gocdoclad_2013.pdf (in Russian)
  8. MEGD, «Strengthening Integrated Water Resource Management in Mongolia» project,  «Integrated Water Management Assessment Report, Volume I», http://www.tuulgol.mn/dmdocuments/reports/national_report_volume1_english.pdf
  9. Water resource of Mongolia http://www.travelnews.mn/index.php?songolt=content&task=content_item&id=833&menu_id=579

10.  MEGD, «Strengthening Integrated Water Resource Management in Mongolia» project, “Tuul River Basin integrated water resources management assessment report”, UB city 2012, http://www.tuulgol.mn/dmdocuments/reports/tuul_r_b_report_english.pdf

11.  «Mongolian water forum-ushelts» NGO, «Baseline study on Socio-economic and ecological conditions of Ider river basin», UB city 2013

12.  «Mongolian water forum-ushelts» NGO, «Baseline study on Socio-economic and ecological conditions of Khuvsgul lake-Eg river basin», UB city 2013.http://baikal.iwlearn.org/en/project/project-tender-reports-2012/010-eg-sub-basin-watershed-management-plan-mongolia

13.  Performance report on the convention on wetlands of international importance,especially as water fowl habitator RAMSAR convention, 2012.

14.  The Institute of Geography of Mongolian Academy of Science, the National Atlas of Mongolia, 2009

15. Mongolian Law on Soil Protection and Desertification Prevention, 2012.05.17, http://www.legalinfo.mn/law/details/8664?lawid=8664

16. The Environmental Information Center, Desertification database, http://www.eic.mn/DLDbase/, eic.mn/DLDbase/upload/2013/tadesertcontent/jpg/20131021_8432.jpg

17.  Mongolian Law on Natural Vegetation, 1995.04.11, http://www.legalinfo.mn/law/details/76?lawid=76

18.  Plant and Forest Conservation, https://mn.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ургамал_ой_хамгаалал

19.  National Statistical Office of Mongolia, «Mongolian Statistical Yearbook», UB city, 2013

20.  MEGD, Mongolian Red book, UB city 2014

21.  Red book of the Republic of Buryatia. Rare and endangered species of animals, plants and fungi. - 3rd edition, revised and enlarged. Ulan-Ude, BSC SB RAS Publishing house, 2013, 687 pp.

22.  The National Program for endangered animals and rare animals, Appendix of the resolution № 277 of the Government in 2011, legalinfo.mn/annex/details/2927?lawid=5500

23. Voloshin A.L. Geoekologicheskie osobennosti sovremennykh ekzogennykh rel’efoobrazuyushchikh protsessov mezhgornykh kotlovin Selenginskogo srednegor’ya. Avtoreferat diss. Na soiskanie uchenoi stepeni kandidata geograficheskikh nauk. – Ulan-Ude. – 2011. [The Geoecological Peculiarities of Contemporary Exogeneous Landscape Forming Processes of Intermontane Hollows of the Selenga Mid-Mountains]

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