Finland is home to four large land carnivores
There are four large carnivore species in Finland, all belonging to different families. The lynx is a feline, the wolf is a canine, the brown bear is from the family Ursus and the wolverine is from the family of weasels. They have been classified as large carnivores based on their size and behaviour. Large carnivores are apex predators: they are at the top of the food chain. The ecological definition of predator includes all animals that prey on and kill other animals to eat their flesh or blood. Our land-dwelling large predators belong to the Carnivora order of mammals. The most obvious feature that sets them apart from other mammals is their four carnassial teeth.
The significance of large carnivores
Large carnivores are a valuable part of Finnish nature. From nature's perspective, large carnivores form a part of nature's own regulation system that maintains balance in the ecosystem.
Evolution has assigned large carnivores the duty of maintaining the populations of large herbivorous mammals. The individual animals that fall prey to carnivores are often weak, which means the carnivores are also maintaining the health of the prey animal populations.
Large carnivores are also beneficial to other species, especially scavengers. Smaller predators living in the same areas with large carnivores will finish what is left of prey carcasses after the larger animals are done with them.
Benefits to humans
Human cultures have always utilised large carnivores in ways they have seen fit. In earlier times, the pelts of large carnivores were used to make fur garments, clothes and blankets. Large carnivores have also been a way to immaterial gains, as men could advance their social status by killing a bear or a wolf. Large carnivores were desired, feared and respected game animals.
In today's world large carnivores are utilised in a slightly different manner. Large carnivores are still hunted, but nowadays people also wish to shoot them with cameras. They are now regional tourist attractions. The mere knowledge of the fact that there are large carnivores in the area is often enough to excite travellers and to create a sense of unspoilt, original nature.
Large carnivores also provide work for tourism providers, nature photographers, researchers, officials and reporters. As they have become rarer, their significance as attractions in zoos has also increased.