Finland’s large carnivores have been photographed in the area around Kuhmo for over ten years and the centre offers excellent opportunities to watch and photograph bears, wolves and wolverine.
You can also see animals such as moose, wild forest reindeer and beaver, as well as birds such as capercaillie, best during the spring courtship period, and golden eagle in the wild.
The area is in the border zone between Finland and Russia – a special permit is needed to enter the area, so it’s really peaceful and undisturbed. Its two co-founders have extensive experience in widlife watching and photography gleaned from working at Martinselkonen Eräkeskus Wildlife Centre, and one of them has photographed wild animals and made nature and wildlife documentaries over a 20-year period.
The wolf (Canis lupus) is by far the area’s most fascinating visitor. Although capturing one on film is extremely challenging, wolves are nevertheless seen regularly in the Viiksimo area, where they are attracted by carrion. They can be seen and photographed all year round, however the best season is from March to November. The best location to see them is centre’s ‘outdoor headquarters,’ where there is a large hide with basic amenities and a smaller, more rustic, hide nearby – both are right on the corner of a swamp with great visibility.
The wolverine (Gulo gulo) season starts in February-March and continues all the way through to October-November. Cubs are born in late winter, and follow their mother closely until the autumn. Best described as a curious wanderer, the wolverine frequently digs holes in rocky ground and hollows in search of food, but is also an agile tree-climber. It is easily lured with small tidbits into places that are convenient for photography, and the centre has hides with a variety of backgrounds specifically for photographing wolverines.
Moose (Alces alces) can be photographed in early summer, when they enjoy licking stones containing various mineral salts. The main season, however, is in September when the cows are in heat. At this time of year the rutting bulls look their finest, and can be lured close enough to photograph them by imitating their calls. If lucky you can get them to come within a few metres!
The wild forest reindeer (Rangifer tarandus fennicus), which is found only in Finland, is the speciality of Kuhmo area. Of a total population of around 2,000 individuals, some 900 live in the Kuhmo area. They can be seen all year round, but look their best in autumn, when the females are in heat.
There is a huge population of beaver (Castor fiber) in the area around Viiksimo, and it is relatively easy to photograph them from a dedicated hide. The best time of year is spring and summer, when the light nights make it easier. From the beaver hide you can also photograph some birds. The opportunities for photography vary annually, as the owl population changes, making photography challenginging but nonetheless possible.
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