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The Siberian Times

Polar bear that walked unprecedented 1,000 km south from Arctic habitat is caught in Yakutia

By The Siberian Times reporter
12 May 2021

The emaciated predator was stealing dog food and attacking villagers hours before it was snared.

Next is the question about the bear’s future, and specialists believe that the options of releasing it back in the wild by the Laptev Sea is still viable

A young polar bear, likely female, was lured into a specially-made cage by a stack of fish splashed with fish oil after it held a village of Dzhebariki-Khaya under a brief siege. 

Residents were asked to keep children at home after the polar bear was seen stealing dog food, sleeping in backyards, and attacking local men who were trying to scare it away. 

Finally the bear was caught in the evening of 11 May.

‘This is an absolutely unique case, the first in the history of Russia and Eurasia when such a rare species from the Arctic habitat went this far south into the mainland. There is no explanation into why this happened yet’, said Roman Smetanin, head of Yakutia’s BioResources directorate who took part in the bear-hunting operation. 

Polar bear that walked unprecedented 1,000 km south from Arctic habitat is caught in Yakutia


Polar bear that walked unprecedented 1,000 km south from Arctic habitat is caught in Yakutia


Polar bear that walked unprecedented 1,000 km south from Arctic habitat is caught in Yakutia

‘This is an absolutely unique case, the first in the history of Russia and Eurasia when such a rare species from the Arctic habitat went this far south into the mainland. There is no explanation into why this happened yet’, said Roman Smetanin, head of Yakutia’s BioResources directorate who took part in the bear-hunting operation. 


The lone polar bear was first spotted at the end of March by villagers of Batagai, Topolinoye and Khandyga - and each new sighting was further away from the Arctic shore. 

The polar bear was moving south fast along the rivers, bypassing remote settlements, which is why wildlife experts took so long tracing it. 

By 11 May, when the bear got to the village of Dzebariki-Khaya in Tomponsky district it had walked more than 1000km (over 600 miles) into the Siberian interior.

‘As soon as heard about the bear in the village we asked the villagers to stay put, and ten of us - a team from the Ministry of Ecology, Institute of Biology, Ministry of Emergencies, Nature watchdog and Yakutsk Zoo - flew to the site. 

‘We had two options, to use a food trap, or to immobilise it, and we really wanted to avoid the latter given that the bear was on the road for so long. Luckily it liked the smell of the food trap and got inside the cage’, said Roman Smetanin. 

The bear is about two years old, experts believe. 

The polar bear filmed minutes after it was caught; the option of releasing it back to the wild by the Laptev Sea is still viable 


It was flown to Orto Doidu zoo near regional capital Yakutsk, where it will stay on quarantine before going through medical test. 

Next is the question about the bear’s future, and specialists believe that the option of releasing it back in the wild by the Laptev Sea is still viable. 

The second option would be life in one of the Russian zoos.

Comments (5)

Hunger is one of the greatest threats to all species in the wild due to habitat loss caused by industrialization, fragmentation of natural habitats, over fishing, mining, drilling etc.... I am also amazed at the statement by the head of Bioresource director. There clearly is a lack of understanding of basic animal behaviour and present problems with loss of species. Every living animal seeks food and we humans have destroyed the food sorse for all small and bi. Bees too polar bears.....clearly that is what an emaciated polar bear was trying to get to dog food and of course was angry distressed and disturbed. How would we humans behave be without food?
ruhie duffin, Sweden
23/05/2021 22:55
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We applaud the awareness of the people of Yakutia, as to the importance of helping this young mother bear and as mentioned, preserving her life. People all over the world have much to learn from this and more of what the people of SIBERIA have been promoting for decades! All the best with this adventure. Keep us posted, please!
Bobby Mr., NORMAN/USA
23/05/2021 09:33
Dear SOS, Maine USA, I agree with you but must reiterate certain issues: firstly I strongly believe that this poor polar bear was a pet who did NOT get bored but was cruelly and obviously violently chased away; hence it's strange behaviour in simply running and running away (in absolute fear of it's life) further and further inland in the complete wrong direction. The bear's right is to be reintroduced back to IT'S NATURAL HABITAT, not a man made zoo, if it is healthy enough.

If humanity wishes to further pursue it's (unfortunately destructive) existence on this earth, it MUST make room for all creatures great and small to cohabit alongside it. There is no other way and humanity in it's selfishness and greed tends to forget that these creatures (dinasours etc.) were living on this planet LONG BEFORE humans existed in the evolutionary sense of the term...

Great news that the Vital Ground Foundation and IBA are attempting to cohabit the brown bears and polar bears respectively, it will succeed with education, awareness and community involvement (as in Africa now). HUMAN FEAR STEMS MAINLY FROM LACK OF EDUCATION, HOCUS POCUS BELIEFS AND IGNORANGE...Wishing you all the best of luck, courage and success for your great visionary endeavours.
Anonymous, Switzerland
17/05/2021 23:50
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Releasing her back to melting ice to starve because of climate change? What difficult choices to have to make, especially if she was a pet--as anonymous above suggests--and got bored, only to be put in zoo, possibly terminally boring but alive...Where can polar bears now survive, co-exist with humans? We can adapt to their existence around us if we give them some space and try to restrain our fear long enough to make room for them to survive alongside us...as the Vital Ground Foundation is trying to do in the USA for our remaining grizzly bears and the International Association for Bear Research and Managment (IBA) is trying to do for all bear species. Thanks to John Hechtel of IBA for posting the photo which led me to Siberian Times...
sos, Camden, Maine USA
15/05/2021 22:25
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Poor creature, it had run another approx. 600 Km's in the complete wrong direction, since you posted i'ts story end of March. What an ordeal for her; she was completely disorientated, which further strengthens my theory that she was a pet which was abandoned by owners without scruples...Thank goodness that no one was injured in her "Gulivers Travels" and that she was not run over on the roads.

Big bear hugs and blessings to Mr Roman Smetanin and the entire team for perservering in tracking her and saving her life...It's great news! Would be wonderful if she is healthy enough to be reintroduced into her natural habitat...where she can run free for eternity...
Anonymous, Switzerland
14/05/2021 01:41
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