Kaluzhsky Zaseki Zapovednik

Scientists in the mid-1980s rediscovered this long-forgotten tract of old-growth, virtually untouched broadleaf forest, teeming with wildlife, with oak trees dating to Peter the Great, preserved now as Kaluzhsky Zaseki Zapovednik. Deeply hidden within and now buffered by a larger, younger tract, this 79-square-mile (204-km2) dense forest remnant at the edge of the great northern forests, about 155 miles (250 km) southeast of Moscow, once was protected as a natural defense against fierce nomadic horsemen from the steppes. Now it offers safety for wolves, lynx, wild boars, moose, big roe and red deer (cousins of American elks), and endangered European bison (thought was being given to reintroducing them here when a small herd in neighboring Orlovskoe Polesie National Park wandered in on their own).

Beavers, river otters, and muskrats make homes in and around streams. Badgers and foxes prey on voles and other small rodents, food base also for martens, ermines, and mink.

Among some 167 bird species are such endangered (nationally or locally) raptors as greater and lesser spotted eagles, booted and short-toed eagles, peregrine falcons, marsh hawks, marsh harriers, black kites, goshawks, and rough-legged hawks.

Descendants of birds that Ivan Turgenev saw when he wrote, in A Hunter’s Sketches, “How lovely the forest is in late autumn when the woodcocks return (and) the light air is filled with the perfume of fall, like the scent of wine,” may be here today, joined now by their cousins, common and great snipes, and along waterways, white and rare black storks, gray herons, and common cranes.