10 Types of Taiga Animals

Wolf pack
© David Dirga/Shutterstock.com

Written by Em Casalena

Published: April 15, 2023

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Taigas are very unique biomes that are only found in very specific pockets between tundras and temperate woods. They are quite cold, which might make one think there is not much wildlife that can survive within their biomes. However, this isn’t the case! There are a ton of types of taiga animals out there.

In this guide, we’ll break down what a taiga actually is and explore some of the many types of taiga animals that thrive within this specific biome.

What is a Taiga?

The cold, subarctic taiga is a type of forest or woodland. The Northern Hemisphere’s subarctic region that contains taiga biomes is located south of the Arctic Circle. Just as well, taigas are located between cold woods to the south and chilly tundras to the north.

Taigas can be found in Alaska, Canada, Scandinavia, and Russia. The biggest taiga in the world is located in Russia and runs 3,600 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the Ural Mountains. During the previous ice age, this whole taiga region was glaciated, or covered by glaciers.

Permafrost, or a layer of permanently frozen soil, is usually present in the earth under a taiga biome. In certain places, bedrock can be found directly underneath the earth. Permafrost and rocks both hinder water from evaporating from the topsoil. This produces muskegs, which are small, shallow bogs. Due to the moss, low grasses, and occasionally even trees that cover them, muskegs might appear to be solid ground. However, the surface is very soggy and moist.

Taiga Flora

Taigas have very dense forest cover. Trees like spruce, pine, and other conifer trees are widespread throughout this type of biome. Rather than having typical leaves, coniferous trees have needles and their seeds are enclosed in sturdy, protected cones. Conifer trees do not lose their needles. This is unlike deciduous trees found in temperate woods, which always lose their leaves in the winter. Because of this, conifers are also referred to as evergreens.

Conifer trees have evolved to survive the taiga’s long and cold winters and brief summers. These trees do not have much sap in their needles, which helps keep them from freezing. They capture and absorb as much of the sun’s light as they can thanks to their dark tint and triangle-shaped sides. The taiga’s dense tree growth is seen near glacial lakes and muskegs.

Apart from conifers, Taigas have little natural vegetation. Taiga soil tends to have minimal nutrients. As a result, many plants find it challenging to establish roots. One of the few deciduous trees that can endure in the bitterly cold northern taiga is the larch. A taiga’s floor is usually covered in mosses, lichens, and mushrooms rather than plants and flowers. These organisms have very shallow roots or can grow straight on top the ground. They can endure low temperatures and lack of sunshine and water.

Taiga Fauna

The taiga is home to a wide variety of species. All animals that live in taigas need to have good cold tolerance. During the icy winter, taiga-native birds often move south. The majority of small creatures that inhabit the floor are rodents. Many predator birds, including owls and eagles, hunt these creatures from the taiga’s trees.

The moose is the world’s biggest deer species, and it can survive quite well in taigas. Moose are strict herbivores, like all other species of deer. They enjoy the aquatic vegetation that grows on the bogs and streams of the taiga.

In the taiga, there aren’t many huge predatory creatures. Lynx and bears are somewhat prevalent. The Siberian tiger, which weighs up to 660 pounds and is the biggest cat in the world, is a taiga native. A limited area of eastern Siberia is home to Siberian tigers. These animals tend to go after wild boars and moose.

Are Taigas in Danger?

Climate change and direct human activities pose a threat to taiga ecosystems. Taiga creatures like foxes and bears have long been targets of hunting. For thousands of years, people who lived in taigas have relied on these animals’ warm fur and durable leather.

However, hunting activity does not pose the biggest threat to taigas. Sturdy structures for houses, businesses, and educational institutions are essential to civilization. For construction projects involving lumber, paper, cardboard, and other materials, taiga trees are felled en masse. For instance, one of the most economically significant businesses in Canada is the export of wood and paper goods that come from taigas.

Clearcutting and Climate Change

The most common kind of logging in taigas is clearcutting. Clearcutting involves removing every tree in a predetermined region. This hinders the growth of new trees and damages habitats for several creatures that reside in and around the trees. In the taiga, erosion and flooding dangers are also increased by clearcutting. The soil of a taiga biome is susceptible to wind erosion as well as wear and tear from rain and snow without any root systems to anchor it. This reveals the bedrock and permafrost, which are not home to many types of life, beneath the taiga.

Taigas are also in danger as a result of climate change in several ways. The permafrost is partially melting as a result of the warming environment. More of the taiga is being occupied by muskegs as a result of this water’s lack of a drainage system. Animal habitats are altered by climate change as well. Native species are driven out while non-native species are drawn in. However, it is worth noting that there are some initiatives in place that are working towards better preservation of taigas in North America.

With this information in mind, let’s take a look at a few important types of taiga animals.

1. Caribou

Classification: Rangifer tarandus

These large ungulates are known as caribou in North America and reindeer in Europe. The caribou are symbols of the freezing north. Although they are well known for their prodigious migrations over open tundra habitats, several herds and subspecies also live in taiga forests.

One of the biggest creatures in the taiga is a subspecies of caribou called the boreal woodland caribou. These caribou, which can be found over a sizable portion of Canada and Alaska, spend most of their lives in undisturbed taiga forests and marshes amid trees. Unlike certain subspecies, which form enormous migratory herds, woodland caribou typically reside in tiny family groups of about a dozen or so caribou.

Caribou Migration

Caribou (pictured) are migratory animals that often live in taiga biomes.

©longtaildog/Shutterstock.com

2. Arctic Graylings

Classification: Thymallus arcticus

Seeing a fish on this list might be surprising, but taigas are indeed home to many fish species. The Arctic grayling is a medium-sized freshwater fish belonging to the Salmonidae family, which also includes salmon and trout. Their most distinguishing feature, like that of other graylings, is a large dorsal fin that resembles a boat sail. In the taiga woods of North America and Eurasia, well-oxygenated rivers and lakes are home to the Arctic grayling.

The Arctic grayling fish (pictured) tends to stay in taiga rivers or lakes that are very well-oxygenated.

©iStock.com/Alaska_icons

3. Bears

Classification: Ursus genus

Bears are types of taiga animals that can thrive quite well in boreal woodlands. These biomes provide habitats for brown bears in both North America and Eurasia, as well as for Asian and North American black bears on their respective continents.

The greatest predator to be found in the taiga ecosystem is the brown bear. When reared on their hind legs, the biggest males may reach heights of nine feet and weights of up to 1,322 pounds. Individuals and subspecies vary greatly in size. The Grizzly bear found in North America and the Eurasian brown bear found in Europe and North Asia are only two of the brown bear subspecies that can be found in the taiga.

Just as well, North American taiga and other environments are home to the American black bear. The species may reach a height of around seven feet and a maximum weight of about 1,320 pounds. A black bear’s diet is mostly made up of vegetation.

Bears’ thick coats and the practice of putting on weight in the fall and hibernating in the winter enable them to survive the bitterly cold taiga winters. Their meals can vary greatly by species and environment because they are omnivores. Taiga bears can consume anything, including roots, nuts, and berries, as well as rodents, fish, and carrion.

Mother grizzly bear ever vigilant monitoring the whereabouts of her cub.

Grizzly bears (pictured) are found throughout North American taiga biomes.

©Kelp Grizzly Photography/Shutterstock.com

4. European Adders

Classification: Vipera berus

It might be a bit surprising that the chilly taiga biome is home to reptilian types of taiga animals, especially venomous ones. However, the common European adder is quite comfortable in taigas. More northern than any other snake, this species is the most common in taiga biomes. The black zigzag pattern along its back identifies the common European adder and makes it easy to avoid them. However, despite being venomous, this species’ bite seldom poses a threat to human life.

Common adder on leaf litter.

The common European adder (pictured) is a dangerous venomous snake species that is found in many taiga biomes.

©Simlinger/Shutterstock.com

5. Beavers

Classification: Castor canadensis and Castor fiber

The two remaining beaver species on Earth, the North American beaver and the Eurasian beaver, can be found in taiga woods. Both species consume bark and timber. These animals need to make warm shelters for themselves to survive the harsh winters of this habitat. To do so, they gnaw down trees to form dams in streams.

Beaver dams alter the ecosystems around them, converting streams and rivers into wetlands that benefit a variety of different creatures. These dams also serve as dwellings for their builders. Even though beavers only live for 10 to 20 years on average, some of their dams can persist for millennia, supporting dozens or even hundreds of beaver generations.

Beaver at the water line in a glass pool

The beaver (pictured) is capable of building dams that can last hundreds of years.

©karen crewe/Shutterstock.com

6. Gray Wolves

Classification: Canis lupus

When it comes to types of taiga animals, we can’t leave out the gray wolf. Wolves have adapted to a range of habitats across the world, including grasslands, marshes, and taiga woods in addition to deserts and steep mountains. In order to successfully hunt huge ungulates like deer, elk, moose, and caribou, these wolves tend to hunt in groups.

Due to their intelligence and resourcefulness, wolves frequently change up their food depending on the time of year and the environment. For instance, they can change their diet to include smaller prey like rabbits, rats, and birds, while certain populations near rivers may develop a talent for fishing. Wolves are also known to consume a variety of berries, tree fruits, and other vegetarian foods in taigas. If necessary, they will even consume carrion.

Mysterious Gray Animals

Gray wolves (pictured) are very intelligent hunters that are resourceful with their food choices and hunting practices.

©iStock.com/rogertrentham

7. Boreal Chorus Frogs

Classification: Pseudacris maculata

That’s right, there’s actually an amphibian on this list! Taigas tend to have harsh winters and brief summer. As such, the taiga is not an ideal environment for amphibians to inhabit. However, some amphibians manage to survive there. One of these hardy amphibians is the boreal chorus frog. This animal can be found throughout the United States and most of central Canada, including their respective taigas and even some tundra areas.

The mature size of a boreal chorus frog is usually around an inch and a half. They spend the winter hibernating, but they awaken early in the spring, usually while there is still snow and ice on the ground. The breeding call of the boreal chorus frog is a harsh trilling noise that is very recognizable and almost musical.

Boreal Chorus Frog

The boreal chorus frog (pictured) is known for the trilling, loud sound it makes during the mating season.

©Matt Jeppson/Shutterstock.com

8. Gray Owls

Classification: Strix nebulosi

Great gray owls are ethereal predator birds who glide silently through the treetops in quest of food. Taiga woods are their natural habitat. They are indigenous to Mongolia, Russia, Scandinavia, and North America.

Gray owls are huge and are among the tallest owl species. However, their bulk is primarily caused by their feathers. The great horned owl and snowy owl are both heavier and have bigger feet and talons than the great gray owl. Despite weighing less than three pounds, great gray owls can consume up to seven critters the size of voles every day throughout the winter. They can locate their prey before striking even through snow because of their keen hearing.

Silver Animals - Great Gray Owl

The great gray owl (pictured) is a talented predator that lives in taigas.

©Erik Mandre/Shutterstock.com

9. Burbot Fish

Classification: Lota lota

Another taiga fish on this list is the burbot. This unique fish is a freshwater cousin of the cod. It is the only cod family member that does not live in a maritime environment. Northern parts of North America, Europe, and Asia are home to the species.

The burbot resembles a catfish because of its long, slender body and tiny scales. It can weigh up to 10 pounds and grow as long as three feet. In addition to being in the taiga biome, the burbot is also found further south, where it is typically found in deep cold lakes and streams.

Eelpout

Burbots (pictured) are a type of cod found in taiga lakes and streams.

©scubaluna/Shutterstock.com

10. Lyx

Classification: Lynx genus

There are four different lynx species on the planet, and two of them usually dwell in taiga regions. Eurasian lynx live in most of northern Europe and Asia. Canada lynx live throughout Canada, Alaska, and the northern contiguous United States. The bigger Eurasian lynx can take on prey as large as deer. The smaller Canada lynx mostly hunts smaller snowshoe hares. The bobcat also lives in temperate and even desert settings in addition to the taiga. The lynx tends to be a solitary animal. They typically hunt animals and birds, and they rely on stealth to get their prey. 

eurasian lynx sitting in tree

The Eurasian lynx (pictured) is a type of lynx that is common in Europe and Asia.

©iStock.com/Korbinian Mueller

These many types of taiga animals are so fascinating, aren’t they? The next time you find yourself hiking through any of North America’s great taigas (or any of the taigas in Scandinavia or Russia), keep an eye out for any of these stunning creatures.


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About the Author

Em Casalena is a writer at A-Z Animals where their primary focus is on plants, gardening, and sustainability. Em has been writing and researching about plants for nearly a decade and is a proud Southwest Institute of Healing Arts graduate and certified Urban Farming instructor. Em is a resident of Arizona and enjoys learning about eco-conscious living, thrifting at local shops, and caring for their Siamese cat Vladimir.

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