Brown bear still waiting for Russian visa in Tallinn Zoo

Prosha in temporary accommodation at Tallinn Zoo.
Prosha in temporary accommodation at Tallinn Zoo. Source: Madis Leivits

A Russian brown bear who scared locals in Valga earlier this summer is still waiting for his visa in Tallinn Zoo, Aktuaalne kaamera reported on Friday.

Prosha was one of two brown bears spotted in Valga County in south Estonia in August. Only Prosha was captured after he fell asleep under a tree. Experts think the bears had strayed across the Estonian-Russian border.  

Prosha was taken to Tallinn Zoo in mid-August to wait in captivity until his return to Russia and can be seen by anyone who visits.

Tallinn Zoo's collection manager, Tõnis Tasane, said that it takes more time for a bear to obtain a Russian visa than for a human and he could not say when the bear would start his journey eastwards. "It is in our interest to send him to Russia as soon as possible," Tasane said to Aktuaalne kaamera. He said the bear has settled into the zoo very well.

The zoo are feeding Prosha a diet that is as close to what he would find in nature as possible. These include acorns, rosehips, apples, and nuts. Once a week, the bear is given live quails to keep his hunting instinct alive.

At first the bear, who looked for food in gardens and on garbage dumps, was given ordinary food for bears in the zoo. Then, at the request of the Russians, kohupiim (curds) were removed from the menu as they cannot be found in the forest.

As for life back in the wild, the plan Russian authorities have is to resettle Prosha in the Komi forest, in the Ural mountains, hundreds of kilometers from any major settlements. That way he should reintegrate as a wild animal and forget the behaviors learned via human interaction, it is hoped.

Since bears can walk as much as 60 km in a day, are good swimmers, and have a penchant for honey, keeping them away from settlements and beekeepers is also a priority.

A bear roaming the outskirts of Valga. Young animals have recently been forced closer to villages and towns. Source: EJS

The two-and-a-half-year-old Prosha was found scavenging at a compost heap in Valga County, ETV's current affairs show Aktuaalne kaamera reported in August, where he had been causing some disruption. The bear had knocked over paint pots and clambered over at least one vehicle and some outhouses.

The bear had reportedly visited the compost heap, in the village of Kulli, nightly for several days before being caught.

Vet Madis Levits said that the bear had plundered a trash bag before falling asleep under a fir tree where he was found.

The two bears, named Prosha and Polya, were being sought by authorities in the Russian Federation since they were reintroduced into the wild, having been cared for in captivity after being orphaned as cubs. They are thought to have traveled from the Pskov region, which abuts Estonia's southeastern border.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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