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Flora and fauna

Just 100 kilometres from the capital, a bear has been sighted in a forest! A piece of news like that is unthinkable in Great Britain, Denmark, Germany or Belgium, but is commonplace in Latvia. That is because Latvian nature is truly biologically diverse and Latvian forests can boast a rich flora and fauna.

For instance, 21 species found in Latvia have been included among the world’s protected species; bears have been sighted in Latvian forests as well. The bear is not an everyday occurrence in Latvian nature - there are about a dozen of them in the entire country. Bears can be seen in Latvia now and then, but they are not a reason to be afraid of stepping into the Latvian forests - any animal fears humans and a bear will flee upon noticing a two-legged being.

Of course, a bear sighting in the wild is very rare, but you can easily come across roe deer, red deer, elk, wild boars, foxes, wolves and even lynx. All you need to do is go for an unhurried walk in nature and be a careful observer - you will encounter animals that elsewhere in Europe can only be seen in special nature parks.

Interestingly, foxes have been seen even in the green, park-covered centre of Riga, while two families of beavers are causing a headache for the park management of the capital. The beavers have taken up residence in the city canal and are gnawing on trees in the greenery; the animal has even been seen swimming in the canal past the Freedom Monument.

While bird-watching at Riga’s "gateway to the sea" within 40 minutes of Mangaļsala Island, at the end of the pier, you could be lucky to spot a seal. Of course, it is not always possible to catch a glimpse of forest animals in open settings; after all, animals try to avoid humans. But that is no reason for sorrow; all you need to do is head to the Līgatne nature park where the animals can be viewed in near-natural conditions. Trails of over five kilometres in length meander along open enclosures containing bears, bison, elk, wolves, lynx and other animals.

The Pape nature park is an interesting object for viewing. Here you can encounter animals such as wild horses (tarpans), aurochs and even bison. In order to see them, you need to contact the Pape nature park.

To view animals, you can also head to "Cīruļi", the branch of the Riga Zoo in Kalvene in Aizpute municipality. Here, in an area of 138 hectares, 38 species of wild animals and 12 further species and breeds of domestic animals can be seen. Bears, wolves, domestic lamas and other animals dwell here in conditions approximating a natural setting.

There are also over 40 deer parks in Latvia where red deer, mouflons, fallow deer and other animals can be encountered. The one closest to Riga is "Saulstari" in More, Sigulda municipality, while the largest is ”Viesakas” in the Madona region.

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