Animals of the Commander Islands Nature Reserve listed in the Red Book of Russia
03 Apr — 2020
Animals of the Commander Islands Nature Reserve listed in the Red Book of Russia

On April 2, the Russian Ministry of Justice registered a new list of rare and endangered animals. Earlier, the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia introduced 29 new species of birds and 14 mammals into the document. In particular, for the first time in the Red Book of 2020, such inhabitants of the Commander Islands as the Bering Arctic fox, Far Eastern carnivorous killer whale, and Siberian eider are included for the first time.


The previous list of species included in the Red Book of Russia in 1997 had the Mednovsky subspecies of arctic fox, sea otter, sea lion, harbor seal and 11 species of cetaceans. The modern list of mammals living in the reserve was replenished with the Bering subspecies of the arctic fox and the Far Eastern carnivorous population of killer whales.

Bering subspecies of the arctic fox

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Bering arctic fox. Photo by Evgeny Mamaev

The arctic fox plays one of the defining roles in the ecosystem of Bering Island. Before the discovery of the archipelago in 1741, the beast was the only terrestrial inhabitant that interacted with the local avifauna and marine mammals. Later, when invasive species settled on the island, the influence of the arctic fox spread to the red vole, American mink, and even reindeer. The number of Bering arctic fox is 400-500 adults.

Far Eastern carnivorous population of killer whales

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Carnivorous killer whale. Photo by Evgeny Mamaev

In the waters of our nature reserve every year you can observe carnivorous killer whales that prey on the northern fur seal. Such hunts occur off all the Commander Islands rookeries. Throughout the history of observations on the islands, cases of killer whales hunting cetaceans, sea otters and harbor seals have been registered. The total number of carnivorous killer whales in the region is estimated at several dozens individuals.


The previous version of the Red Book of Russia in 1997 had 27 species of birds found on the Commander Islands.  The list of 2020 Red Book species includes 35 species of these birds.

A total of 14 new species have appeared that inhabit or are found in our reserve: red-necked grebe, Siberian Taiga bean goose, killer whale, eyed eider, Siberian eider, Kamchatka goshawk, Kentish plover, common dotterel, curlew sandpiper, great knot, Icelandic sandpiper, Pacific godwit, golden bunting and rustic bunting.

Siberian Taiga bean goose

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Siberian Taiga bean goose Photo by Dmitry Pilipenko

Almost every year on the Commander Islands, this species of geese appears during the spring migration, but in extremely small numbers.

Siberian eider

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Siberian eider Photo by Evgeny Mamaev

On the coast of the islands, Siberian eider winters every year, and its numbers here are at about several thousand individuals. In the early 90s, we registered on the islands 8.5 thousand and in recent years there are less than 4 thousand.

Pacific godwit

This sandpiper (title photo, author - Dmitry Pilipenko) annually visits the islands only in the spring and in small numbers.

Other bird species from the new list are extremely rare on the islands.

But, in addition to the appearance of new species, 6 species have disappeared from the new edition of the Red Book: intermediate egret, whistling swan, watercock, Aleutian tern, marbled and Kittlitz's murrelet.

Заповедная Россия English

Заповедная Россия English