The bear Prosha from Pskov was caught and taken to zoo

The young male bear Prosha was brought to Tallinn Zoo.

PHOTO: Tallinna loomaaed

Early Wednesday morning a vet and a group of hunters caught one of the bears wandering in Valga county. The young male bear Prosha was brought to Tallinn Zoo by morning and preparations are in progress to return him to Russia.

Attempts to apprehend Prosha have been made for a week and a half with the vet and hunters being ready every night. Approximately one o’clock in the morning the bear was sighted in the yard of Kulli farm in Valga county.

This site was familiar to the bear who had visited the garbage dump there earlier.

“A local resident reported at one o’clock that the bear had been sighted,” said Andres Balodis, the hunter from Valga county, who shot the tranquilizer dart. He said that the tracks of the bear had been seen on the way to the site and since the animal was expected to raid the garbage bins, they set up an ambush in the vicinity. And the bear showed up quite soon.

Although the bear ran off having noticed the people, three trackers managed to keep up with it and Balodis succeeded in taking the shot despite darkness.

“They issued me a special license to use a tranquilizer gun al all times. Otherwise an environmental service official should always be present,” Balodis said.

Aimar Rakko, head of the Environmental Board office of hunting and aquatic biota, said that since the bear was not afraid of people, the team succeeded in creeping up to it and shooting the dart.

The bear moved on after being hit, grabbed along a garbage bag and soon fell asleep near the building.

“This was the most critical moment of the whole operation. If the bear had been startled and run into the woods, it would have been impossible to tell where it is, is it sleeping or still groggy and dangerous,” Rakko described the hunt. Fortunately, everything went well this time, the bear fell asleep and posed no threat to the hunters or the vet.

“The bear was shat with an anesthetic the effect of which lasts from ten minutes to an hour. We were somewhat worried: this is a prescription drug and you can never tell what the effect will be,” said Madis Leivits, a vet specializing in wild animals.

The hunt ended surprisingly quickly. Only an hour after the call, said Rakko, the bear had been caught and placed in the transport cage. All three men were needed to carry the 100-kilogram animal to the car. After Leivits had examined the animal, they began their journey to Tallinn.

Aimar Rakko said that Prosha woke up on the way and ate all the apples and honey placed in the cage. “As far as animals go, this is a very good sign. If an animal eats, it means that it is well,” Rakko explained.

At seven o’clock in the morning the bear was handed over to the Tallinn Zoo which planed the animal immediately in quarantine. According to Tõnis Tasane, the Tallinn Zoo head of collections, Prosha has settled in well in two former bear cages joined together.

“This bear is quite bold and has no fear of people. He is no regular forest bear, his experience with humans is obvious,” Tasane said, adding that the animal would nevertheless be dangerous to approach.

Prosha has to spend a month in quarantine to enable the monitoring of his health, in particular possible infection with endoparasites.

“One the one hand we have to quarantine the bear because we bring it to the zoo and must prevent it from infecting other animals. On the other hand, any animal to be transported abroad must undergo quarantine according to the recipient country’s own laws,” Tasane explained. However, since Russia is impatiently waiting for the return of the bear, it might be sent back home earlier. “Since this is a Russian bear it may be possible that the Russian side will not require quarantine,” he added

Although Prosha was earlier seen with the female Polya, the latter has not been sighed for some weeks. “Only the male bear was active in Kulli village,” Balodis said.

He added that there had been no reports or proof in recent weeks of sighting the two bears together. “A bear can move so fast that sometimes it is difficult to say whether there was one animal or two.”

Aimar Rakko confirmed it. “No video clip or photograph depicts the female bear. But if the trouble should continue, it would be clear that the female bear from Pskov is still in the area.”

Polya and Prosha came from the Toropets biological station “Clean Forest”, which engages in the rehabilitation of orphaned bear cubs and their re-installation in the wild. Prosha will be probably returned to Toropets.

The bear cubs Polya and Prosha were born in 2017, spent seven months in the rehabilitation center after being orphaned and were then returned to the wild. The two bears reached Valga county via Latvia in June and began to cause disturbance and damage to property there.