Snowdrifts Built for Endangered Seal

SAVONLINNA, Finland, Jan. 8 (UPI) — Finnish researchers are trying to lure the endangered Saimaa ringed seal by heaping mounds of snow on lake ice in the Saimaa Waterway.

The seal, one of the world’s few freshwater seals, scoops out nests in snowdrifts for its pups. In recent years, however, warmer-than-usual winters often have meant a lack of snow and no place for the seals to nest, Helsingin Sanomat reported Friday.

The Saimaa population has dropped to fewer than 300 seals, which originally were trapped by rising land after the last Ice Age.

Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland were moving snow onto the lake ice and mounding it into 40 drifts to see if the seals would nest in it, researcher Miina Auttila said.

Half of the mounds were being piled in known nesting grounds and the other half in promising areas not previously used by the seals. Cameras were being placed along the shoreline to monitor the movement of predators that could threaten the seals and their pups, Auttila said.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

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