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The Natural Environment

Animal Life

At one time Europe was home to large numbers of a wide variety of animals, such as deer, moose, bison, boar, wolf, and bear. Because humans have occupied or developed so much of Europe, however, many species of animals have either become extinct or been greatly reduced in number. Today, deer, moose, wolf, and bear can be found in the wild state in significant numbers only in northern Scandinavia and Russia and in the Balkan Peninsula. Elsewhere they exist mainly in protected preserves. Reindeer (domesticated caribou) are herded by the Saami of the far north. Chamois and ibex are found in the higher elevations of the Pyrenees and Alps. Europe still has many smaller animals, such as weasel, ferret, hare, rabbit, hedgehog, lemming, fox, and squirrel. The large number of birds indigenous to Europe include eagle, falcon, finch, nightingale, owl, pigeon, sparrow, and thrush. Storks are thought to bring good luck to the houses on which they nest, particularly in the Low Countries, and swans ornament many European rivers and lakes. Scottish, Irish, and Rhine salmon are prized fish here, and in the coastal marine waters are found a large variety of fish, including the commercially important cod, mackerel, herring, and tuna. The Black and Caspian seas contain sturgeon, the source of caviar.

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