Finland has a long-established tradition of monitoring game abundance. Covering the whole of Finland, the monitoring of grouse began in the 1960s, followed by game triangle counts in 1989. Game triangle counts are carried out by volunteer hunters and nature enthusiasts. In game triangle counts, the snow tracks of small wild game are counted in winter, followed by counts of grouse in late summer.
Counts indicate that the populations of capercaillie, black grouse, hazel grouse and willow grouse declined from the beginning of the 1960s to the end of 1980s. Since then, populations of capercaillie, black grouse, and hazel grouse have begun to recover in some areas. The decline in grouse populations can be attributed in particular to habitat changes brought about by forestry.
Cervid species are making gains, while small carnivores and mountain hare are losing ground
The numbers of roe, white-tail deer and large carnivores in particular have increased compared to the first game triangle counts in the 1980s. The losers include the stoat, least weasel and mountain hare.
Mountain hare populations have declined significantly in Southern and Western Finland. This decline is attributable to snow no longer covering the ground in winter in the southernmost parts of Finland. The hare’s fur changes colour in reaction to the number of daylight hours and a white hare on snowless ground is easy prey. In areas previously dominated by the mountain hare, the brown hare, which does not change the colour of its fur, has become more numerous.
Cervid species, on the other hand, have benefited from changes to the environment. Their preferred habitat is not old-growth forests; they find food in young forests.
Up-to-date information is available via the riistakolmiot.fi service
In 2014, a service named the riistakolmiot.fi service was introduced, enabling people performing game counts to enter their observations. This service has accelerated the gathering and use of count results, facilitating the retention of information and reporting on it. The service makes data from counts available in real time.
Data in support of decisions regarding hunting
The Natural Resources Institute Finland coordinates game triangle counts in collaboration with the Finnish Wildlife Agency. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry makes use of data produced by game triangle counts when deciding on hunting seasons and the regulation of hunting. Quarry quotas for hunting clubs and game councils can be specified on the basis of data obtained from game triangle counts. Long-term changes in trends observed in game populations affect hunting policies.
Game triangle counts are used to obtain data on the habitat requirements of different species and the effects of changes to habitats. Combining follow-up results with knowledge of forests will open up new avenues for investigating game species habitats.
Data on game species populations is also required for reporting stipulated by the EU Habitats Directive.
Photo on top of the page: Anja Vest/ Vastavalo.fi