Golden jackal feels right at home in Latvian woods

State Forest Research Institute Silava wildlife management officials confirmed Thursday that recently hunted-down animals from the Latvian forest wilderness are indeed golden jackals.

The species Canis aureus, the common jackal, was not known to be native to northeastern Europe, however scientists at Tartu University’s DNA analysis laboratories say there’s no doubt the jackals have arrived.

Silava researchers no longer think the golden jackals got into Latvia from the opposite direction – i.e. from Estonia, where they have also been found, but rather indeed from the southeast, despite no reports of findings from Lithuania.

Last year three specimens of the wolf-like creature were hunted down in Latvian woods around the south-central Zemgale town of Jelgava, reported to wildlife authorities and handed off to the university labs in Tartu. Later, a fourth came in from coastal Kurzeme province near Aizpute.

The golden jackal has already been declared an invasive species ahead of the confirmation, and its hunting season coincides with that set for wolves – from July 15 through March 31, Valters Lusis of the State Forestry Service hunting section told LSM.

“Hunters can mix the jackals up with wolves, and some might do so deliberately if we set different dates, so we made sure that their seasons are exactly the same,” Lusis explained.

Silava senior research scientist Janis Ozolins told LSM the process of species migration was natural, though facilitated by human activity and recommended against any mass culling efforts.

“First of all, it’s impossible, it won’t work, and people’s efforts are not always justified. Secondly, if it’s a natural process, you learn to accept it,” he said.

He explained that now it remains to observe the golden jackal as part of Latvia’s animal kingdom and research its interactions with other species. Humans are under no threat from them. Though deer was determined to be in the diet of the hunted-down animals, it is too early to predict an impact on the species’ population from jackals. Ozolins discounted the idea that the golden jackal could proliferate as a problem in Latvia.

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