Thirsty elks will seek water during heatwave in Finland, motorists warned

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A eurasian elk in a forest in Sweden. (iStock)
Elks wander out of their forests when their drinking ponds dry up, potentially into the path of traffic. (iStock)
The police department of Southwestern Finland warns people driving in the region of wandering elk that may cross roads unexpectedly in search of fresh drinking water.

The ongoing heatwave is drying up the drinking holes and ponds that elks use to stay hydrated, forcing the animals to seek larger bodies of water outside of their natural habitats.

A total of 140 crashes and other accidents involving elk have been reported in the last week alone, police said, especially in the area around Pyhäjärvi lake near the town of Säkylä in the southwest of Finland.

The number of accidents is exceptionally high, according to inspector Marko Luotonen of the Southwestern Finland police department.

“I don’t recall there ever being this many collisions in July,” he said.

Police urge drivers to stay especially alert and to drive slower on roads that pass near bodies of water.

Do not disturb swimming animals

The elk (Alces alces) is Finland’s largest animal, and the species is known to jump into lakes for a swim in order to cool off on hot days.

Police issued a reminder that animals such as elk seen swimming in a body of water should be left alone and not approached.

“All wild animals must be allowed to swim in peace and move on to their natural routes,” Luotonen said. “If a swimming animal is disturbed it may become distressed and even drown.”

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Caribou crossing Arctic Canada highway, but hunters asked to hold off for now, CBC News

Finland: Accidents in Finland seven times more likely in elk-crossing zones, says study, Yle news

Russia: Authorities in northwest Russia move to protect wild reindeer, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Indigenous reindeer herders request emergency aid after drought, wildfires ravage Sweden, Eye on the Arctic

United States: ‘We are caribou people’: First Nations leaders in Washington to push for ANWR protection, CBC News

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