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RU: Radioactive wolves occupy vacated homes

BY AnneHart

Speaking of health, it took a nuclear reactor accident to bring the animal, especially the thriving wolf population back to Chernobyl. Should the US take note of what happens to an area when that place is deserted by humans due to an accident?

Check out the excellent PBS video, Radioactive wolves. And see the Radioactive Wolves Homepage. Also check out the uTube videos, Chernobyl Reclaimed: An Animal Takeover (1 of 5).

What happens to nature after a nuclear accident? And how does wildlife deal with the world it inherits after human inhabitants have fled? People looking for healthier environments such as wildlife parks to explore, can take a lesson just by looking at how the animals reclaimed the city when the people left.

What happened is that back in 1986 the world witnessed a nuclear meltdown at the infamous Chernobyl power plant in present-day Ukraine. The accident left miles of land in radioactive ruins.

The first animals to take over were the bison herds and then the wolves….So that the land began to look as it did just after the end of the last ice age. Residents living in areas most contaminated by the disaster were evacuated and relocated by government order.

Today, there’s a no-man’s land human making that is now left to its own devices. That land will be radioactive for thousands of years. But has it changed the animal life? Not in many measurable ways, so far, say scientists. The wolves are healthy, at least for now, and so are the other animals–eagles, bison, horses, beavers, various birds, moose, and other animals looking much as they did before humans plowed the land.

In the ensuing 25 years, forests, marshes, fields and rivers reclaimed the land, reversing the effects of hundreds of years of human development, according to the Radioactive Wolves blog page.

For the animals, this radiation-wracked exclusion zone, or “dead zone,” has become a kind of post-nuclear wolf Eden, populated by beaver and bison, horses and birds, fish and falcons – and ruled by wolves.

Looks like wolves are kings in that land, in spite of the cold winters between Belarus and the Ukraine. The Belarus side is where the no-radio zone lies and the Ukraine side is radioactive. The wolves cross back and forth between the rivers that separate the two nations.

Access to the radioactive zone is now permitted, at least on a limited basis. So scientists are monitoring the surviving wildlife in the area, trying to learn how the various species are coping with the invisible blight of radiation.

So what makes the wolves kings over the bison? They’re the top predators in this new wilderness. According to scientists, wolves best reflect the condition of the entire ecosystem because if the wolves are doing well, the populations of their prey must also be doing well.

Scientists put collars on the wolves, monitor their travels, give physical exams to the newborn wolves, and monitor their health. Check out the key long-term study of the wolves. Scientists want to find out more about the wolves’ health, range, and numbers.

In the PBS video, Radioactive Wolves discusses the state of wildlife populations in Chernobyl’s exclusion zone, an area that, to this day, remains too radioactive for human habitation. For those interest in health, it shows what happens when humans leave an area, the place becomes green with plant life, and the animals appear to thrive without intrusion from humans on their habitats.

You don’t need a nuclear accident to restore living space for animals. There are parks, but space is tight. At least for the wolves, they seem to be getting back to their former glory as the area around Belarus and Ukraine formerly had one of the largest wolf populations in the world. Some villages still carry the name “howling wolf.”

If you live near the wolf zones on the non-radioactive side, you may hear the howling all night. And since no humans are living on the radio-active side, the animals are free to make as much noise as they want. Apparently, there is no shortages of food, and the wolves have taken up residence in the houses formerly occupied by people. To their health, sometimes the wolves are toasted. Beaver plays a large part of the wolves’ food sources.