Wolves are thriving in radioactive Chernobyl

The lack of humans has opened up an opportunity for wolves to thrive in Chernobyl.

Karen Saltos | Jul 09, 2018

The government in Chernobyl does not allow people to live in the exclusion zone. A nuclear reactor exploded there in 1986 and it remains one of the most disastrous nuclear power plant accidents in history.

The lack of humans has opened up an opportunity for some animals to thrive. Wolves have adapted amazingly well to this new human-less existence.

According to a study in the European Journal of Wildlife Research, the wolvesrepopulated the area quickly. They enjoy a healthy ecosystem, abundant prey and no people to shoot them.

The researchers conducted the study by fitting 14 gray wolves in the zone with GPS collars to track their movements. They found that the 13 adult wolves stayed close to home, but one pup traveled far away.

After the GPS collar on the pup malfunctioned, researchers were not able to track it to see if it returned to its place of origin. GPA tracking information could indicate that the zone is actually a refuge for wildlife.

In the past, environmental scientists have found that, for wildlife, the harmful effect of radioactivity pales in comparison to the positive effect of living without humans. A long time ago millions of wolves roamed North America. When colonists arrived, they feared and distrusted the wolves and other predators and launched eradication efforts on the animals.

Currently the United States protects wolves under the Endangered Species Act. Nevertheless, the United States agency Wildlife Services killed 357 wolves in 2017.