Finland is one of the last countries in Europe where bears, wolves, lynxes, and wolverines can still be found in the wild - even though hikers seldom see them. The brown bear (Ursus arctos) is Finland's national animal.

Bears have a natural tendency to avoid humans. Photo: Ville Miettinen / Vastavalo

Bears and wolves roam long distances, and may occur almost anywhere in Finland, although both species are most common in Eastern Finland, where special bear-watching trips are organised. Bears and wolves are protected, but hunting permits may be issued where animals become a nuisance to livestock, or lose their natural tendency to avoid humans.

There are no recent records of people being attacked by wolves in Finland, and bears only attack people extremely rarely - if they feel threatened, or if someone comes between them and their young. In the unlikely event that you come face to face with a bear or wolf, the safest response is to slowly back off in the direction you came.

Lynxes are quite widespread around Finland, but their excellent senses and wary disposition mean they are rarely seen. Wolverines (Gulo gulo) are seriously endangered, but still roam the remote forests and open fells of the north.

The Kuhmo Visitor Centre Petola in Kuhmo houses a fascinating exhibition about these four magnificent animals, and is also home to Finland's Large Carnivore Information Centre.