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Saimaa seal population believed to have grown

Mild weather and melting ice cover disrupted the spring count, but more pups may have been born than the year before.

Kuvassa on saimaannorppa Savonlinnassa.
A Saimaa ringed seal. Image: Juha Metso / AOP

Researchers at Finland's state forest, parks and wildlife agency Metsähallitus believe that there has been an uptick in the population of Saimaa ringed seals, a highly endangered fresh-water species found in the county's eastern lake district.

Metsähallitus bases its estimate on observations made during annual surveys of the dens that seals carve out in snowbanks on frozen lakes to birth their young.

The group reports that the time for the 2019-2020 count was shorter than usual due to the rapid melting of the ice, and it is likely that not all nesting sites were discovered.

The total population of Saimaa ringed seals is estimated at 420-430 individuals. The number of pups that were born and survived last winter is estimated at about 15-20.

Lake Saimaa froze later than usual last winter and there were fewer snowbanks where seals could dig their winter dens.

Especially in areas with strong currents and south of the city of Savonlinna, a large part of the ringed seal population wintered without a den.

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