Brown Bear Photographed In Chernobyl For First Time In A Century

A brown bear has been captured on film in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl, marking the first time the animals have been spotted in the region in more than a century.

Sergey Gaschak, a Ukrainian colleague working with the British-run TREE (TRansfer, Exposure, Effects) research program captured the images of the bear using an automatic camera trap in the area around the power plant. As the Daily Mail relates, scientists are studying the region surrounding Chernobyl in an effort to better understand the risks that radiation poses to humans and wildlife.

The brown bear is hardly the only large mammal living in the region, according to Gaschak. His cameras have managed to capture images of lynxes, grey wolves, wild boar, elk, horses, and otters, among other animals that now call the exclusion zone around the power plant home. According to Project leader Mike Wood from the University of Salford, the absence of human beings has turned the area into a kind of wildlife sanctuary.

“We are basically working on the assumption that as you move people out of the equation and human pressure and disturbance is removed, then any animals that have a corridor into the exclusion zone find they are suddenly away from the pressures and dangers presented by people.”

As BBC News notes, more than 110,000 people were evacuated from their homes following the April 1986 explosion at Chernobyl, considered the world’s worst nuclear accident. A 30 km exclusion zone was created around the Chernobyl reactor, and remains to this day devoid of human presence. The area has provided a wealth of data to scientists studying the impacts of radioactive contamination.

Recently, a drone was able to capture images of Chernobyl, 28 years after the accident that left the region devoid of human life. As the Inquisitr previously noted, British cinematographer Danny Cooke utilized the footage to create a video, Postcards from Pripyat, Chernobyl.

Researchers are currently focusing on three different areas in the exclusion zone, with 15 cameras operating in each spot to catalog the wildlife around Chernobyl. The first stage of the project will continue into early 2015, when scientists will target one species for a trapping and collaring campaign. Whatever species is chosen will be fitted with GPS collars that will also reveal to researchers the actual radiation exposure that brown bears and other wildlife encounter in the area around Chernobyl.

[Image: Sergey Gaschak via the Daily Mail]