My Visit to Losiny Ostrov National Park in Moscow, Russia

(pictures: Liza D.)

by Liza Derenchenko

In the middle of October 2016, during a trip to Moscow, I decided to pay a visit to national park Losiny Ostrov, which means Elk Island.

The first written record of this national park dates back to 1406, when the formation of the city of Moscow as the center of north-eastern Russia (which was much smaller back then) ocurred. Apparently, the park was one of Tsar Ivan the Terrible’s favorite hunting grounds for falcons and bears.

In its later history, the park was made into a royal hunting ground with a special protected status, where falcons, game and elks were popular prey.  With the founding of St. Petersburg as new center for the noblesse, the status of Losiny Ostrov as a recreational place for royalty and aristocracy declined significantly. Barren lands in the park became overgrown by forests and were logged by peasants from the neighboring villages and towns, despite the status of the park as protected area.

This changed again in 1804 with the increase in governmental security and so the protection of forests was increased again. Since then, the protection status has been kept fairly strict, even during the post revolution fuel crisis in the beginning of the 20th century, and during the 2nd world war, forest planting continued. Many enthusiasts helped to preserve and enhance the forest resources of Losiny Ostrov over time.

The park is relatively small (about 12.000 ha) and encompasses a number of different ecosystems: taiga pine forests, birch forests, swampy meadows, various types of wetlands, as well as man-made natural areas with different species of trees, meadows, fields and ponds. Over 80 percent of the park’s area is covered by forests, out of which 62 percent are deciduous, with the prevalence of oak. Over 800 plant species have been observed in the park, over 85 of lichens, 69 of moss, 120 of mushrooms and 150 of algae. Mostly forest species, but many adventitious as well, due to the closeness to residential areas and due to its past economic development. The park is also home to many animal groups like elk, wild boar, marten, weasel, marten, ermine, mink, otter, beaver, hare, owl, bat, woodpecker, eagle and many more, some of which are red-listed.

The museum I originally intended to visit on the grounds of the park was apparently no longer there or it was a miscommunication and google maps failed me, but at any rate, the visitor center, which was encountered on the way out, seemed to be closed (due to it being offseason possibly). Even though I didn’t stay too long in the park, due to low temperatures, I did get some nice shots and witnessed a woodpecker making funny noises when I went a little off road. I imagine that seeing bigger wildlife would require a trip deeper into park and further away from the people. I could also imagine it being a very lovely place to visit on a sunny day.

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