Finland: Snow cannon to help Saimaa seals build dens

Saimaa ringed seals make dens on frozen freshwater lakes. (iStock)
Saimaa ringed seals make dens on frozen freshwater lakes. (iStock)
Dark, snowless winters can feel gloomy in Finland—but to the endangered Saimaa ringed seal, milder weather is an existential threat.

This year researchers are planning to use snow cannon to make sure they have enough building material to get through the winter nesting season.

The Saimaa ringed seal is set to get a helping hand this winter as researchers from the University of Eastern Finland roam the Saimaa region spreading water cannon-produced snow on the lake ice.

The endemic freshwater seals make their dens on the frozen lake, so long as there is enough snow. Snow left by friendly researchers will, the theory goes, help the seals and their pups stay safe, snug and warm over the winter—even if it’s a warm and snowless one.

Last winter, volunteers used shovels to make snow drifts of natural snow along the shores, but the snow cannon are intended to make things run a little smoother for ringed seals looking for a good spot for a nesting den.

”Artificial snow works just as well as the normal stuff for seals,” said researcher Mervi Kunnasranta.

The animals are extremely endangered, with just 300 left—all in the Saimaa region. Their nesting period runs from December to April, during which time the animals need peace and quiet and plentiful snow to rear their young.

Conservation efforts have focused on making sure fishing in the Saimaa region is conducted with seal-proof traps.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  Nunavut hunters seeing fewer ringed seals in Canada’s eastern Arctic, CBC News

Finland:  Building dens for Finland’s Saimaa seals, Yle News

Iceland: Endangered whale meat shipped from Iceland via Halifax, The Canadian Press

Norway: Rapid growth in Svalbard walrus population, Barents Observer

Sweden: Rare dolphin spotted on Sweden’s west coast, Radio Sweden

United States:  Biologists spot huge gathering of walruses in Arctic Alaska, Alaska Dispatch

Yle News

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