Living next door to large carnivores

Location: Lieksa – Finland,
Story by: Eliisa Kiiskinen

© Lauri Rotko


Eliisa Kiiskinen from Lieksa, Finland, has a distance of seven kilometers to her nearest human neighbor. Wolves, bears, Wolverines and lynxes live much closer to her than other humans. Kiiskinen, who enjoys sledding with her dogs, often sees traces of large carnivores during her winter rides. There have been a few face-to-face encounters as well. Kiiskinen says they get along well.


Eliisa Kiiskinen moved to live in the middle of Finnish wilderness. Her closest neighbor lives about 7 kilometres away. There are several large carnivores living in the nearby forests.


“My relationship with large carnivores is pretty straightforward. They are my neighbors,”

Kiiskinen says.

Kiiskinen, who enjoys sled dogs and sled sports, sees traces and paw prints of large carnivores when she goes out on her sled rides with her dogs. There have been a few face-to-face encounters as well.

“In those situations, I’ve never had to be afraid. And I haven’t come up with a reason to be afraid. We don’t see each other terribly often with large carnivores, but we get along well, ”

says Kiiskinen.

“One of my most memorable experiences has been when one night in my own yard I heard a distant howl of a wolf that my dogs responded to. They had a dialogue and howled together. Or maybe they had a competition, I don’t know which one. It sounded great,”

she recalls.

Bear-safe garbage containers

Preventing access to rubbish is a very important activity to avoid conflicts between bears and human. The containers should be specially designed so that bears were neither able to open nor destroy them. They should be placed along busy mountain trails or in car parks, where people leave a lot of waste, including organic waste. In addition several electric fences can be installed to protect large garbage containers located near mountain huts, in garbage sorting areas and to protect composters. These safeguards are only 100% effective if the waste is placed inside the containers. If the garbage is outside, the smell of the garbage will attract animals.


Tourism is an activity that an bring society closer to large carnivores and increase the real knowledge on the species among citizens. When the participants observe these animals in the wild, a bond is created and the awareness of the needs and the lifestyle of the animals is rising. For some,  this experience is a dream come true. There are a lot of different activities that can be offered: photo tourism, talks, field trips with biological materials (skulls and skins), tracking courses or observation trips. Also a visit to a shepherd and other people who have historically shared the territory can be arranged to let the public know.


Large carnivores are often hated in Finland. WWF has launched a Europe-wide project to dispel fears and prejudices towards large carnivores through communication.

“Yes, we can all be here in the wilderness. As long as there are still forests left, we can dodge each other quite well here”

says Kiiskinen.