I wake up at midnight hearing somebody walking around with a loud, splashing noise in the wet bog surrounding the hide where I am sleeping. Who could that be, here in No-Mans-land, right on the border between Finland and Russia? When I look out in the dark night I see an even darker shape walk around out there. But it has four legs. A huge bear. Maybe 3 metres away…
Between us only some cotton cloth and thin plywood. He walks around the area for hours. Not out for me of course, he is there in spite of my smelly and scary human presence. But he is there for the food put out to him and his kin.
As morning comes, no less than 9 bears have passed by during the night, and then on the other side of the bog, a family of 8 wolves begin an intense social come-together – tails up high, sniffing each other, howling and yelping. But the light is not photo-friendly yet, not even at 25 600 ISO…
An hour later, when they have all left the scene, a wolverine comes by, picking up some of the leftovers from the night’s feast and it trots off with the lower leg of a moose in the mouth, on its way to its day hideaway.
This is a legendary wildlife watching site in Kuhmo that is run by Finnish nature photographer and tourism entrepreneur Lassi Rautiainen and his team from Articmedia. It is actually the only place in the whole world where you run a very good chance of seeing both wolf, bear and wolverine, sometimes all three of them even during a single night.
Most carnivores come during the darker hours, arriving at dusk and leaving at dawn. But the odd animal stays on for another hour or two, to finish off what may be left of the carcass put out for them.
The bears are in charge at the dinner table, but the wolves try to sneak in and grab a bite every now and then, harassing and teasing the bears all the time.
A single wolf will typically keep a a low and quite humble profile, tail-between-the-legs-style, but already two of them can match many a smaller bear, frequently chasing them away from their food. And four wolves together means bad news for a bear of almost any size, and they then often completely take over and rule the place.
There is lots of interaction every night between the wolves and the bears.
And growling fights among the bears.
At the end, when all the bigger predators have left, the wolverine has its chance to enter the scene. It is very scared of the others and can approach only when they are gone.
This is my second visit here this year, now in September the wolves’ furs look much better and they may show up also outside the darkest hours.
But the night is longer and darker, with a lot of the activity taking place without any possiblity to see it. The bears are also much fatter than during summer, putting on weight for the winter sleep.
A few nights here is an amazing, unique and very wild experience, and better yet: it is fully reachable for anyone, thanks to Lassi and his team.
One of the true Wild Wonders of Europe.
Please note that blogs reflect our photographers' opinions and not necessarily those of the directors of Wild Wonders of Europe.