The group used 94 baited scent stations and 30 remote camera traps set up within the Polesie State Radio-ecological Reserve, a highly contaminated area in south Belarus.
The zone is predominantly forested and abandoned agricultural land, pock marked with empty villages. Carried out during a five week period between October and November of 2014, the project captured 14 species of mammal on film, with 173 animal detections observed overall.
It shows that among the creatures feeding off the land are the Eurasian bison, red squirrel, moose, boar, and gray wolves. Many of the animals were also documented in a recent visit to the zone by Reuters photographers
“For this study we deployed cameras in a systematic way across the entire Belarus section of the CEZ and captured photographic evidence – strong evidence – because these are pictures that everyone can see,” said lead researcher James Beasley in a UGA statement.
“We didn’t find any evidence to support the idea that populations are suppressed in highly contaminated areas.
“What we did find was these animals were more likely to be found in areas of preferred habitat that have the things they need – food and water.”
The latest UGA study was published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology.
Its findings contradict those of previous studies which have claimed that the fallout from the meltdown, whose cleanup required 600,000 workers, is damaging the area’s natural wildlife.