Evidence of long-distance dispersal of a gray wolf from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

  • Michael E. ByrneEmail author
  • Sarah C. Webster
  • Stacey L. Lance
  • Cara N. Love
  • Thomas G. Hinton
  • Dmitry Shamovich
  • James C. Beasley
Short Communication


The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ) is a ~ 4300 km2 area in Belarus and Ukraine that remains heavily contaminated with radiation from the nuclear accident of 1986. Long standing controversy persists on the fate of wildlife within the CEZ following human abandonment of the area. Human residency remains extremely sparse, and the CEZ has become a refuge for some populations of wildlife, including gray wolves (Canis lupus). Using GPS telemetry, we documented the first long-distance movements of a young (1–2 years) male wolf from the CEZ into the surrounding landscape. The wolf traveled 369 km from its home range center over a 21-day period in February 2015. In the 95 days prior to dispersal, the wolf maintained a home range of ~ 28 km2, with daily displacements rarely exceeding 5 km. With the onset of dispersal, daily displacement increased to a mean of 16.8 km. The dispersal of a young wolf is an important observation because it suggests that the CEZ may serve as a source for some wildlife populations outside of the CEZ, and raises questions about the potential spread of radiation-induced genetic mutations to populations in uncontaminated areas.


Animal movement Canis lupus Chernobyl Contamination Dispersal GPS telemetry 



We thank P.M. Kudan, Y. Bondar, S. Kutschmel, S. Smalovski, and the staff at the PSRER for their assistance, and I. Filipkova and A. Bundtzen for their invaluable knowledge and hard work with this research.

Funding information

Funding was provided by the US Department of Energy (Award NumberDE-FC09-07SR22506 to the University of Georgia Research Foundation), the National Geographic Society, the Institut de Radioprotection et de Suˆrete Nucleaire, and the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Savannah River Ecology LaboratoryUniversity of GeorgiaAikenUSA
  2. 2.School of Natural ResourcesUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  3. 3.Warnell School of Forestry and Natural ResourcesUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  4. 4.Odum School of EcologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  5. 5.Institute of Environmental RadioactivityFukushima UniversityFukushimaJapan
  6. 6.Sosnovy BorBelarus

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