RMK’s nature conservationists identified five new flying squirrel habitats 22.04

During the course of the RMK Nature Protection Department’s inventory, which took place at the beginning of April in Ida-Viru County, five new flying squirrel habitats were found, which RMK placed under protection.

The goal of the inventory, which took place over the course of two days, mainly in the vicinity of Sonda, Iisaku, Avinurme and Oonurme, was to check the representation of flying squirrels in commercial forests based on the flying squirrel habitat model prepared by the Environment Agency. To do so, areas located in close proximity to the known habitats of flying squirrels were checked, where older aspens that are suitable as habitats for the species are found.  

The presence of flying squirrels was controlled based on signs of activity. Within the observation plot, observers moved from one Aspen to another and checked for the presence of flying squirrel excrement at the foot of the trunk of the tree or on the surrounding ground. A total of 103 allotments on 303 hectares were controlled.  

“In the case of 17 allotments we found signs of flying squirrel activity, which provides the basis to set aside five new flying squirrel habitats. Especially noteworthy is the discovery near Sonda, which shifts the known area of distribution of the flying squirrel 600 metres to the north,” said Margus Pensa, Species Conservation Specialist with RMK’s Nature Protection Department.  

Information on new habitats is forwarded to the Environment Agency, which decides on the need for the formation of new permanent habitats or the expansion of existing habitats. Until then, RMK will be applying temporary protection to the areas.  

Out of RMK’s lands, flying squirrel habitats registered in the environmental register cover approximately 1400 hectares. This area is divided between 106 habitats, of which 30 were established in 2017. In order to ensure the coherence of known habitats for flying squirrels RMK has, since 2014, established distribution corridors, where forest management is monitored, in order to preserve the connection between flying squirrel habitats. Distribution corridors currently offer connections between nearly 50 areas. In addition RMK has set aside suitable forest areas for flying squirrels where forest management does not take place, in order to allow flying squirrels to establish new habitats. Routine inventories are conducted within those areas, the results of which indicate that flying squirrels have settled in forest areas that were planned and placed under protection by RMK.  

The flying squirrel is a small nocturnal rodent, whose life passes mostly in trees, covering long distances by gliding from tree to tree. The flying squirrel is clumsy on the ground and is therefore easy prey for predators. In the European Union, flying squirrels are currently only found in Estonia and Finland. The habitat of the flying squirrel shrank drastically during the 20th century, and the species, which was once found across mainland Estonia, is now found only in Alutaguse, where there are around 40 known settled habitats.  

RMK, or the State Forest Management Centre, is responsible for taking care of nearly 30% of the total land area of Estonia, on which 47% of Estonia’s forests are located. RMK is the keeper, protector and manager of the forest and other natural biotic communities belonging to the Estonian state. RMK cultivates forests, preserves natural treasures, earns income for the state by managing the forest, creates opportunities for visiting nature, and provides nature education.