The causes of long-term decline in the polecat population in Belarus

Population decline of carnivore species may happen suddenly, develop rather fast and proceed short-term. For instance, such demise character was known for the European mink in Belarus and Russia (Macdonald et al., 2002; Sidorovich, 2011). Population decline of other carnivore species may pass gradually and less evident, and a considerable decrease in population density may take many more years.

The situation that is characterized by gradual and long-term decline is fairly hard to notice, while manipulating short-term data only. It takes much time to establish a right hypothesis on the decline and to prove the hypothesis. Usually, in such a case, when a population decline appeared to be evident, it is already too late to get a complete dataset to analyze the declining process and to reveal the factors that impacted the population. The polecat Mustela putorius population decline in Belarus was characterized by the mentioned features of gradual and long-term decline (see Sidorovich, 2011).  Our results of the study on the polecat demise suggest the following negative factors that are responsible for the population decline.

Continue reading “The causes of long-term decline in the polecat population in Belarus”

Impact of American minks on water vole and root vole populations and populations of the aboriginal predators – eaters of these beneficial prey, in particular, the stoat and great grey owl

In one of our study area on the question, which is the Lovat terrain in Paazierre Forestin northern Belarus,  both riparian vole species (the water vole Arvicola terrestris and root vole Microtus oeconomus) have become scarce since the American mink Neovison vison  has established a dense population. Continue reading “Impact of American minks on water vole and root vole populations and populations of the aboriginal predators – eaters of these beneficial prey, in particular, the stoat and great grey owl”

Benefit of semiaquatic mustelids from beaver construction activity in Belarus and the method to census aquatic prey

Having pronounced construction instinct and activity, beavers change a lot their aquatic habitats in order to provide foraging pathways protected by water environment and create effective shelters saving them from enemies (mainly wolves and humans) and cold weather during overwintering, giving birth and raising a litter as well as  everyday resting.
With respect to semiaquatic mustelids i.e. otter and mink, a question arises do these changes in aquatic habitats bring benefit for them or not?  Beavers build a lot of shelters in kinds of burrows and lodges, and such a benefit of better sheltering environment for otter and mink is evident. While investigating the question, we were mainly interested in beaver activity-related increase of water-dwelling prey of otter and mink in aquatic ecosystems and, first of all, in small streams such as small rivers, brooks and drainage canals. Just at small watercourses such an effect of damming by beavers on semiaquatic mustelids may be the most pronounced. By building dams, beavers create ponds; such ponds are gradually eutrophicated and densely overgrown with macrophytes. So, it was essential to get know, such beaver ponds bring benefit in aquatic prey supply for semiaquatic mustelids or not, and if it is,  on which stage of the pond eutrophication such benefit is the highest.

Continue reading “Benefit of semiaquatic mustelids from beaver construction activity in Belarus and the method to census aquatic prey”

Reading mammal activity signs

Since my childhood I have been very interested in tracks of mammals and  in the entire variety of activity signs of mammals and birds on the whole.  Within this my passion I tried to push forward not only identifying of mammal activity signs, but their usage in track-based research methods on population ecology as well as to reconstruct correctly the respective behavior of mammals from their activity signs.  Continue reading “Reading mammal activity signs”

Analysis of predation in vertebrate community

In the period of 1993-2010 I led the Vertebrate Predation Research Group in the same research Institute of zoology, National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. The group consisted of 3-12 colleagues (including PhD-students and Diploma-students) and was aimed to investigate vertebrate predators,  mainly carnivores, but also owls, diurnal raptors and snakes. The studies took place in Paazierre Forest (the northern part of Belarus) and Naliboki Forest (the central-western part of Belarus), i.e. semi-natural terrains with transitional mixed forest within the European Forest zone. Continue reading “Analysis of predation in vertebrate community”

Study and conservation activity in relation to the European mink

Intensive study on population ecology of the European mink Mustela lutreola as a critically endangered species in the Lovat terrain, Paazierre Forest, northern Belarus in 1988-2000, particularly the researches in 1995-1997 in collaboration with Prof. Dr. David Macdonald and Dr. Hans Kruuk, were a serious school for me, and that advanced a lot my professional knowledge and skills. For those three years I was accepted as a member of Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) in the Oxford University and visited it several times per year.  For the mentioned studies there were applied the whole variety of available research methods of mammal population ecology including a lot of telemetry. In total we radiotagged 38 European mink (18 inds were radiotracked for long enough), 69 American mink Neovison vison (35) and 19 polecats Mustela putorius (12). Continue reading “Study and conservation activity in relation to the European mink”

My zoological beginning

I was motivated by wildlife from my childhood that took place in the Haradishcha village nearby  Miensk, Belarus. The countryside childhood with still rich wildlife in the village surroundings played an essential role for my further zoological way with a lot of study in the wild. More or less real zoology started for me since 1980, when I was a student of the Belarusian State University in Miensk. At that time I was mostly interested in the Eurasian otter Lutra lutra, minks (Mustela lutreola and Neovison vison) and wolf Canis lupus. Continue reading “My zoological beginning”