Terrestial top predators

Wolf, Brown bear, Lynx

Sources: State Environmental Monitoring Reports 1994-1999

The abundance of terrestrial top predators (wolf, lynx and brown bear) is giving an impression of status of their habitats and species that are in food chain they are top of. Abundance here is expressed as the number of individuals per 10,000 km2of land to make it comparable with other countries.

Wolf, brown bear and lynx are under protection in most Western and Central European countries where their abundance is carefully monitored. These species are not considered to be threatened in Estonia. At present all are important game animals.

The figures below show the changes in the abundance of top predators in Estonia during second half of 20th century.


The number of wolves is regulated in Estonia because they are regarded as a threat to cattle breeding. In 1955, the population density was about 177 wolves per 10,000 km2. Thereafter intensive hunting began and as a result only 10 wolves were counted in Estonia in 1970 (about 2 wolves per 10,000 km2). Then their number started to increase again, so that in 1995 the density was esimated at 154 wolves per 10,000 km2. It appears from the data on the depicted figure that during 1995-1997 the abundance of wolves diminished significantly from 154 individuals per 10,000 km2 to 67 individuals per 10,000 km2. In 1998, the wolf population in Estonia remained stable at about 66 individuals per 10,000 km2. Although about 100 wolves are shot every year, there is (from hunting management point of view) a request for further reduction of the population density. The number of wolves can increase quickly because of sufficient number of prey species and partly also due to natural immigration from east. Changes in abundance of wolf in Estonia are given on graph right side of paragraph.

Brown bear  

Brown bears were under protection up to the 1980s and, as a result their number increased. Although in 1970 only 200 individuals were counted (44 bears per 10,000 km2), the number of bears increased to 850 individuals for 1990 (185 bears per 10,000 km2). In the 80s bears had become a regular hunting target. It appears from the depicted figure that the number of bears has been falling during 1990-1996. During last years (1996-1999) the abundance of bears has stabilised at about 132 bears per 10,000 km2. The biggest bear populations can be found in North East Estonia (Ida and Lääne Viru county). Changes in abundance of brown bear in Estonia are given on graph right side of paragraph.


The number of lynx varied considerably during the last century. The small number of lynxes found in Estonia in the 30s resulted in the species being placed under protection in 1937. The abundance of lynxes was relatively low during a long period and it was not until the 70s that the number of lynxes started to increase again. The rise has been steady and in 1997 the population density was estimated at 265 individuals per 10,000 km2. This has resulted in the lynx becoming a popular hunting target once more and some decrease in 1999. Changes in abundance of lynx in Estonia are given on graph right side of paragraph.