Foxes, Leopards and Sheep: Visit Russia’s Altai Mountains!

The wildlife of Russia’s Altai Republic in southern Siberia is represented by 80 mammal species, 300 bird and 44 fish species, many of which can be found on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

What are the most endangered Altai animals?

Argali sheep

Argali sheep mostly roam mountain prairies: open spaces at slopes and the bottoms of mountain ranges and foothills. Seasonal migration is common. From mid-April the sheep migrates from Mongolia, where most of them live, to the Altai mountains.

Experts have estimated the total number of argali at about 3,900. Up to 1,200 sheep are in Russia.

The argali populations suffer mostly due to development of extensive animal farming and displacement of sheep to rocks where they cannot live. Significant damage is caused by poachers who hunt them for their horns.

The argali population is also highly influenced by climate change, resulting in big snowstorms and harsh winters that make it difficult for them to survive.

Snow Leopard

The snow leopard is a mysterious and enigmatic creature which remains one of the least studied cats in the world. Biologists and ecologists have little information about this rare predator, and there is only a rough estimate of its population. Many tribes consider this animal a symbol of strength, splendor and power. It abounds in local folklore. However, few people have managed actually to see the snow leopard in the wild.

In Russia the snow leopard population is estimated at 70-90, while no more than 4,000 snow leopards live on the planet.

A decrease in the population of wild ungulates and climate change are major reasons for a reduction in the snow leopard population.

Corsac Fox

This predator is quite small. Its body length is from 45 to 65 cm. Adult animals weigh from 3.5 to 7 kg. This prairie fox has a great sense of smell, vision and hearing. It can climb trees and run at speeds of up to 60 kilometers an hour. It barks while hunting or fighting predators. The fox forms a monogamous bond for its entire life.

The corsac fox has a lot of enemies: wolves, other fox species and bird predators. This fox runs fast, but also gets tired fast. That is why it is a suitable prey for a wolf, which can run for hours at the same pace. The fox’s fur is valuable on the market, making poaching historically a major issue. Today this species is in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The exact number of these animals is unknown.

Cinereous Vulture

The cinereous vulture differs from other large eagles due to its huge size, almost bold (covered with soft hair) head and a bold neck with a “collar” of long pointed feathers. This vulture has wide and long wings, big protruding eyes and a yellow/brown beak. The full length of its body is between 75 and 100 centimeters, its wingspan is between 250 and 300 centimeters and its weight is between 7 to 12 kilograms. It’s a sedentary bird that lives in mountains and foothills.

The vulture is very voracious and eats mostly carrion. Six birds can feed on a 50 kilogram wild boar for several hours, leaving only skin and a skeleton at the end. In the wild, vultures live 39 years on average, but some of them live up to 50 years.

The main reason the vulture is endangered has to do with a dwindling population of its prey brought on by climate change. The vulture is also occasionally susceptible to toxic chemical poisoning from industrial activity.