Otter gets around by playing
In winter you can see the traces of someone sliding down to lakes and streams in Gränslandet. The tracks are made by otters, gliding on their tummy. This is a good way of getting around in deep snow if you have short legs, and may be also a way of scent marking your territory. But they must think it fun too, because sometimes they run up and slide straight down again. Since the 1950s, otters have decreased substantially due to hunting and environmental toxins, but the population is now starting to recover.
Beavers shape the landscape
There are plenty of beavers throughout Gränslandet. They build their dams along streams and rivers all the way up to the tree line. The dams create new wetlands, benefiting many other animals and plants.
In the past, beavers were hunted intensively for their scent secretion, called castoreum, which was said to cure everything from labour pains to bubonic plague. The last indigenous beaver in Sweden was shot in 1871. In Norway too, beavers were on the brink of extinction although around 100 animals survived. In 1922, a few of them were driven across the border and set free in northern Jämtland. Now the beaver population is increasing throughout Scandinavia.
Lemming – staple diet for many
One of the biggest talents of the lemming is its ability to breed and multiply. If the snow cover is thick and stable, a lemming has time to have both children and grandchildren before the snow melts in spring.
During good lemming years, predators have an abundance of food. The arctic fox takes the opportunity to give birth to several litters and snowy owls arrive like white ghosts from the arctic tundra. Even reindeer eat lemming heads. It’s believed this is a way for them to supplement their salt intake. That fish would eat lemmings sounds unbelievable, but there are actually stories of lemming-eating large trout!