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‘Air Bear’ helicopter rescue for beast who floated on ice 700km too far south

By The Siberian Times reporter
22 April 2019

Forlorn polar bear named Umka turned up at a Russian police station as if pleading for help: now he is back where he belongs.

The rescue team left three days supply of fish 100 metres from the bear and released him. Picture: kamgov.ru

A major rescue operation by the Emergencies Ministry has seen lost Umka successfully  returned to the wild. 

The bear had floated helplessly south on an ice floe from Chukotka region to Kamchatka region.

When he got close to land again, the bear swam ashore and wandered towards the police station Tilichiki village, population 1,750.

The predator became a star attraction for locals and he scavenged for food - and his plight was seen in media reports around the world.

Soon he was supplies with tasty fish - but also candy - with no need to hunt for his supper. 

But there was a real threat to Umka’s life from the warmer climate and wrong food supplies, and after being alerted by local police, the Emergencies Ministry organised a rescue mission back home to Chukotka.

One video shows the polar bear in a cage abroad the helicopter after being sedated, while a second shows the moment the animal is released back into the wild - and hesitating for a moment before running into the distance.

The first flight had to be aborted due to poor weather. 

But a second attempt saw Umka flown to Navarin Cape in Chukotka - a distance of some 733 km.

There was a midair alert on board when the bear woke up. 

Sedated polar bear


Sedated polar bear


Sedated polar bear in cage


Map of the route

On the last day of his odyssey in Tilichiki, he ate ‘two pans of herring - and the watchman treated him also with a kilogram of candy. Pictures: Kamchat.Info, The Siberian Times

'He was conscious during the flight, but did not rock the cage,’ said the Kamchatka regional government.

‘It was loud, he was afraid. 

‘According to hunters, the longer and more difficult the journey, the less likely that the animal will come to people later.’

The rescue team left three days supply of fish 100 metres from the bear and released him. 

‘They opened the cage door and released the animal.

‘Umka almost immediately left the cage and, without even turning around to say goodbye, ran away.'

There had been fears that Umka was wounded with an injury to one paw. 

But Kamchatka wildlife consultant Alexander Selnitsyn said: 'The animal is in excellent condition.

‘He is well-fed, and has normal subcutaneous fat. 

‘This is not surprising, because in the last days he was fed here, as if for slaughter.’

On the last day of his odyssey in Tilichiki, he ate ‘two pans of herring - and the watchman treated him also with a kilogram of candy.

Polar bear released in Chukotka


Polar bear released in Chukotka


Polar bear released in Chukotka

‘According to hunters, the longer and more difficult the journey, the less likely that the animal will come to people later.’

‘So he slept. It was reported that his paw could be damaged. 

‘But there is no serious injury. We found only a small scratch that the predator got while walking in the industrial zone of one  the villages.' 

The bear has had a lucky escape. 

Head of the State Hunting Supervision Department of the Regional Agency for Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Vladimir Gordienko, said that such rare accidents - being carried south on ice floes - can all too easily  lead to early death. 

‘Bears get here on the ice floes washed this way,’ he said. 

‘As a rule, they cannot go back to Chukotka. In Kamchatka, the feed base does not suit them. So, most likely, such guests will die.'

The predator became a star attraction for locals and he scavenged for food - and his plight was seen in media reports around the world.

Polar bear sleeps on plastic bag


Polar bear in Tilichiki

Bear in Tilichiki

Comments (7)

Thank's to all people involved in this wonderfull act. JUST GREAT
Thierry, Belgium
03/05/2019 05:03
2
0
- man- can not live from bread alone. it also needs good deeds like that sometimes. my hat off to all the people who were involved. and did not just shoot the bear at the village.
MORAK Benedikjt, Moscow
26/04/2019 07:02
4
0
Poor baby got stuck on an floating ice block... Thank you for not killing that beautiful bear and doing the humane thing! Great job to the rescuers!
Camille, USA
24/04/2019 23:27
5
0
Oh!... Umka is the name of an adorable little polar bear in a Russia' cartoon (1969) .. So cute !
I didn't know it ..Thanks
Jocelyne, FRANCE
23/04/2019 22:56
9
0
Thank you Siberia. While so many other countries have cruelty cultures, it's good to see a kindness culture. Thank you.
Hank, USA
23/04/2019 21:07
10
0
It was so heart melting to see how you in Russia save animals. 700 km would be too much to find out from open sea. I know that they sometimes swim 1000km/day but searching for food. First when I saw the photo, I thought it was died but happy ending is awsome here.
Leiah Sariell, Lapland Finland
23/04/2019 03:31
12
0
Good luck Umka..!!... it is enjoying to see him in his beautiful wild garden !! very beautiful Kamchatka..
Tkanks to the rescuers..good job!!
Jocelyne, FRANCE
23/04/2019 03:14
13
0
1

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