The Juortanansalo - Lapinsuo Mire Reserve was formed by combining a two-part mire reserve established in 1988 with an expansion when the Friendship Park was founded. Most of the mires and forests are rather poor, but there are also richer stretches on stream banks and even herb-rich forests.

Patches of Forest

A majority of the forests are dominated by old trees. In certain places, large numbers of trees have, however, been removed at various times, and there are sapling stands near forest roads. In spite of old selection cuttings, the forests are in a near-natural state. The patches of forest growing on mires are usually old spruce forests.

The patches of forest growing on mires are usually old spruce forests. Photo: Ari Meriruoko

Small Bodies of Water

The water bodies are small humic mire pools and headwater brooks. The southern part of the reserve shows the influence of springs and has spring brooks. There are no lakes in the area.

Large Mires

Mires account for more than half of the Juortanansalo - Lapinsuo reserve land area, up to 59 per cent. The mires found in the area are diverse and primarily in their natural state. There are open and tree-covered aapa mires, raised bogs, small mires and spring fens. You can also find rather poor open mires, pine bogs and spruce mires, but very few rich fens.

Hanhisuo Mire in Juortanansalo. Photo: Risto Sauso

Isosuo is a vast open mire that includes flat deergrass fens characteristic of the Kainuu Region. Lokkisuo, situated in the middle part of Juortanansalo, is wet and has many flarks. Lapinsuo is a vast mire and difficult to walk on, due to its wetness. The pristine open mires of Valtasensuo are located between two moraine ridges, surrounded by untouched spruce forests.

Life in the Mires and Forests

The part of Juortanansalo - Lapinsuo located in Suomussalmi belongs to a reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandusmanagement area, while Kuhmo is home to wild forest reindeer (Rangifer tarandus fennicus). The area is intersected by a reindeer fenceextending for about 90 km on the border of the municipalities of Kuhmo and Suomussalmi, the purpose of which is to secure the breed purity of the wild forest reindeer by keeping reindeer and wild forest reindeer apart. For more information on securing breed purity, refer to the Management Plan for the Wild Forest Reindeer Population in Finland (www.mmm.fi).

Wild Forest Reindeer. Photo: Risto Sauso

The Emblem of Friendship Nature Reserve The emblem of the Finno-Russian Friendship Nature Reserve has two wild forest reindeer, reflecting the cooperation and friendship between the two countries for the benefit of nature conservation. The wild forest reindeer is a natural choice for the emblem, since one of the fundamental goals of the Friendship Nature Reserve is to protect the species and its habitats.

The other mammals encountered in the Juortanansalo - Lapinsuo area are typical forest and wilderness species: small mammals, mountain hares (Lepus timidus) and red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) as well as small and large carnivores. As for birdlife, the birds of old-growth forests are rather abundant in the area. Examples of typical species are the goldcrest (Ulus regulus), common treecreeper (Certhia familiaris), three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus) and crossbills (Loxia curvirostra et Loxia pytyopsittacus), as well as the fairly common Siberian jay (Perisoreus infaustus). The mires attract, for example, common cranes (Grus grus), wood sandpipers (Tringa glareola) and rough-legged buzzards (Buteo lagopus). The best bird wetlands can be found in Suomussalmi.

Expansion of the Nature Reserve

It is being proposed that the Juortanansalo - Lapinsuo Mire Reserve be expanded with old-growth forests and pristine mires under the Old-growth Forest Conservation Programme. Most of the expansions are corrections to current borders. Once the Ministry of the Environment approves the annexation of the expansions to the Juortanansalo - Lapinsuo Mire Reserve, the total area will increase to 5,436 hectares.

Restoration in the Juortanansalo - Lapinsuo Mire Reserve

Of the nature reserves belonging to the Friendship Park, Elimyssalo, Lentua, Iso-Palonen - Maariansärkät and Juortanansalo - Lapinsuo were included in the LIFE-funded project "Natural Forests and Mires in the Green Belt of Koillismaa and Kainuu". The purpose of the project was to restore forests and mires in 13 conservation areas in the Kainuu Region, for example. In Juortanansalo, restorations were carried out in 2008. 

Hunting the wild forest reindeer in the old days

Pit Trap, Spear, and Deer Gun

The first method used for hunting deer was the pit trap. Stakes, the sharpened ends of which were often hardened by charring, were placed in the bottom of each hole dug for the purpose. The pits were covered with branches, spruce twigs, and forest litter so that they would not be seen by the deer. Often the hunters also constructed narrowing fences, which herded the deer towards the traps.

Photo: Risto Sauso

Pit traps were dug along the routes that were frequented by the deer. Nowadays, depressions in the terrain are all that remains of the traps. They are most often found on the peaks of narrow ridges, on narrow isthmuses, and on mineral deposits that pass through mires.

Hunting deer on skis

The oldest weapons that were used in the winter hunting of deer were cross-bow and spear. In later times, a big and heavy deer gun was used.

In Kainuu, deer hunting was a task allotted to a few men and mostly conducted in autumn and winter. In cold weather, it was easy to keep the meat fresh until it was salted and cured. Deer were also hunted in early spring when the snow could support a skier and the wind and the sun of the spring helped to dry the meat quickly.

The basis of the annual cycle in Lappish villages

Until the 17th century, society in northern Finland was largely centred in Lapp villages, the southernmost of which were located in Kuusamo. The whole system of Lapp villages in the eastern areas of Northern Finland and the Kola Peninsula was formed to accommodate the arrangements made for deer hunting. In these areas they carried out joint deer hunting expeditions in the winter season, which took place up to three times over the course of autumn and winter.

As late as in the 17th century, deer hunting determined the annual cycle of the villages. The Sami people, especially the eastern Sami people, spent their winters in villages from where families dispersed to their summer sites to fish, pick berries, and hunt in the spring. The people of the winter village hunted the deer together. Sometimes people from various villages participated in the hunts. The joint hunts lasted as long as there was deer left to hunt.

Autumn, winter, and spring hunting

The first joint deer hunt took place in September before the mating season of the deer. Only male deer were hunted, as they had plenty of abdominal and back fat before mating.

The second hunt took place in late winter, when the snow became able to bear a skier. The hunters skied after the deer that moved in herds. When the weather favoured the skiers, the hunters often returned from their early spring hunt with a load of game.

The third joint hunt was organized in early spring when the deer were hunted on the fells. The meat from deer hunted in the spring was, for the most part, dried. In the fell hunt, the deer that attempted to climb higher to escape the hunters were herded towards the shooters who had stationed themselves on the fells in advance. Reindeer and sleighs were often used to help herd the deer towards the shooters.