What happens to nature after a nuclear accident? And how does
wildlife deal with the world it inherits after human inhabitants have
In 1986 a nuclear meltdown at the infamous Chernobyl power plant in
present-day Ukraine left miles of land in radioactive ruins. Residents
living in areas most contaminated by the disaster were evacuated and
relocated by government order, and a no-man’s land of our own making was
left to its own devices. In the ensuing 25 years, forests, marshes,
fields and rivers reclaimed the land, reversing the effects of hundreds
of years of human development. And surprisingly, this exclusion zone, or
“dead zone,” has become a kind of post-nuclear Eden, populated by
beaver and bison, horses and birds, fish and falcons – and ruled by
Access to the zone is now permitted, at least on a limited basis, and
scientists are monitoring the surviving wildlife in the area, trying to
learn how the various species are coping with the invisible blight of
radiation. As the top predators in this new wilderness, 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.
Accordingly, a key long-term study of the wolves has been initiated to
determine their health, their range, and their numbers.
Radioactive Wolves examines the state of wildlife populations in
Chernobyl’s exclusion zone, an area that, to this day, remains too
radioactive for human habitation.