Meet the Animals Living in Chernobyl: The World’s Most Dangerous Nuclear Wasteland

Written by Kirstin Harrington
Updated: October 22, 2023
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Key Points:

  • Chernobyl was a nuclear power plant disaster in 1986.
  • Because of the radioactive material, humans will not be able to safely live there for another 20,000 years.
  • Watch this amazing video to see the animals that are living and thriving in the area today.

The worst disaster to ever happen in the nuclear power industry took place at the Chernobyl nuclear plant on April 26, 1986. In the disaster, the reactor was damaged, and a sizable volume of radioactive material was spilled into the environment. 

In reaction, the government ordered the evacuation of around 115,000 residents from the reactor’s vicinity in 1986. While this event is beyond tragic, wildlife and domestic animals eventually started taking over the area due to the lack of humans. 

Check Out the Video Below!

After that, crews demolished and removed the radioactive trees. Additionally, any wandering animals were to be shot inside the 1,000-square-mile Chernobyl Exclusion Zone by troops of Soviet conscripts.

Despite the fact that many scientists now think that the zone won’t be safe for human beings for another 20,000 years, many animal and plant species managed to not only endure but also thrive there. Although it is technically forbidden for humans to live there, many other creatures have made it their home. 

Within the Chernobyl disaster region, grizzly bears, wolves, lynx, buffalo, deer, elk, beavers, foxes, beavers, wild boar, raccoons, dogs, and more than 200 species of birds have developed their own ecosystem. The uninhabited habitat is home to a variety of frogs, fish, worms, and germs, in addition to the larger species.

Wild horses in Chernobyl

Many animal species thrive within the Chernobyl disaster region, including wild horses.

©Kate Siomkina/

A Whole New World

However, some biologists have been astonished that the rate of physical alterations seems lower than the explosion of radiation would have predicted. Tour guides advise guests not to contact Chernobyl wildlife due to the possibility of radioactive elements in their fur. Contrary to what Hollywood might have you believe, today’s wild creatures have their regular amount of limbs and aren’t glowing neon!

Rare species of nesting birds in the area were disproportionately affected by the radiation of the explosion versus common species. The effects of higher abnormalities on species’ fertility rates, population sizes, genetic variation, and other survival factors must be studied further.

The fewer people there are, the more wildlife can rebuild itself free of human interference. In fact, several species are thriving inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone more so than they are outside of it. The number of wolves on the property was discovered to be seven times higher than in other, non-radioactive places. 

During the site’s abandonment on April 27, 1986, hundreds of puppies, the offspring of canines left behind by their owners, made the barren terrain their home. Due to the potential for radioactive contamination, bringing any animal beyond the zone was prohibited until 2018. However, radiation-free puppies are finally having an opportunity to find loving homes.

Chernobyl disaster. Radioactive zones near the reactor in Chernobyl. Sign of radiation on the background of the cooling tower in Chernobyl. Radiation contamination area near the Chernobyl reactor.

The radiation contamination area near the Chernobyl reactor is widespread.


The photo featured at the top of this post is © DimaSid/

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About the Author

Kirstin is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering animals, news topics, fun places, and helpful tips. Kirstin has been writing on a variety of topics for over five years. She has her real estate license, along with an associates degree in another field. A resident of Minnesota, Kirstin treats her two cats (Spook and Finlay) like the children they are. She never misses an opportunity to explore a thrift store with a coffee in hand, especially if it’s a cold autumn day!

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