No joke: Russian scientists marked problem Kara Sea polar bear with T-34

Reposted from Polar Bear Science

Posted on December 7, 2019 |

The media are so gullible. So eager are they for a sympathetic polar bear victim that news outlets everywhere carried a story earlier this week about a Russian polar bear that had ‘T-34’ spray-painted on its side. They took the word of Russian polar bear/walrus consultant to WWF and Netflix, Anatoly Kochnev, that this was some kind of cruel joke that meant an untimely death for the bear. Turns out it was nothing of the kind.

T-34 polar bear

Cruel animal abusers daubed T-34 – the name of an iconic Soviet tank – on a wild polar bear. Daily Mail (2 December 2019).

Polar bear spray-painted with ‘T-34’ baffles Russia wildlife experts BBC (2 December 2019).

Russians spotted a polar bear painted in cryptic graffiti. Scientists are searching for answers National Post (4 December 2019)

A polar bear was spray-painted with graffiti, scientists fear it won’t survive CNN (4 December 2019).

Apparently, the original video of the marked bear was posted on a social media site for Chukotak indigenous people and subsequently posted on Facebook by Sergey Kavry of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), who also contacted local media.

Only five days ago, Kochnov was quoted as saying:

‘Scientists could not do this, it could have been somebody who ‘joked’ like this.

Polar beara checking out a Russian dump Kara Sea late November 2019_Irina Eliseeva photo

Except scientists did do it.

In a report in the Siberian Times published late today, it appears the bear was causing problems on Novaya Zemlya (where dump bears were a big problem last winter) and was tagged ahead of being driven off:

“The animal was marked with ‘safe paint’ which wears off over two weeks, and moved away to discourage him from coming back.

The bear was sedated and examined, said senior researcher Ilya Mordvintsev.

The check showed that the male predator was well-fed which meant that he would likely not attack.

The mark was made to allow both the locals and experts recognise the beast in case he returned, and to distinguish it from any other polar bear scavenging at the site.

Andrey Umnikov denied T-34 referred to the tank.

The video [that went viral] was filmed approximately a week ago, he specified.”

Poor sad polar bear news flash is over, morphing into an egg-on-the-face moment for WWF and Kochnev.

Habituated dump bears are a wide-spread problem in the Kara Sea, as the photo of a fat bear checking out a container below shows.

‘Polar bears checking on rubbish containers are not rarity. It happened at Beliy island and Vilkitskiy island,’ Andrey Umnikov explained.

Polar bears

Location of Vilkitskiy Island in the Kara Sea (Wikipedia):

Vilkitskiy island Kara_sea wikipedia

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December 10, 2019 6:12 am

Reasonable explanation from authenticated source. But I wonder what T-34 signifies. Was there a T-33, 32, 31, etc.???

Reply to  tomwys
December 10, 2019 6:17 am

Yes, it would be good to know the relevance of the T and the 34. They are not just random. perhaps there is a log book of letters and numbers of troublesome creatures. The explanationi is a little unsatisfying.


Reply to  tonyb
December 10, 2019 6:32 am

“Not just random.” “Perhaps there is a log book.” These are not unsatisfying explanations. How about this: “T” refers to a region or population of bears. “34” is a sequential entry. OR… Something completely different. Why the hand wringing?

Reply to  Jess
December 10, 2019 8:25 am
Reply to  Jess
December 10, 2019 8:31 am

Hand wringing? Its just that I like to know the full story and if the tagging was done by scientists there must be a logical explanation for the nomenclature.

The full reasons are given in the link supplied by planning engineer a little further down the thread

Reply to  tonyb
December 11, 2019 6:19 am

My point about ‘hand wringing’ is that you were not satisfied with their stated reason for choosing T-34 as the number to spray on the bear. Scientists used a number to identify a bear. What does it matter why they chose that particular number? I understand being curious but finding the answer “unsatisfying” implies they were hiding something.

Reply to  Jess
December 10, 2019 2:38 pm

тревога / тревожить / etc

And several variants – Means like “alarm!”, frighten, trouble, be aware, disturbs / disruptive.

Effectively – inducating that this bear is a troublemaker.

This is plausable, though a simple interview with the community involved would clarify.

Мирон Сергеевич Яров
Reply to  Jess
December 13, 2019 8:07 am

T- (rus) tochka – (engl) point/sector
in this case, the “T” is the point. 34th registration point.

Reply to  tonyb
December 10, 2019 10:33 am

Would anyone be hand wringing if the bear was tagged with M33?

michael hart
Reply to  SadButMadLad
December 10, 2019 4:29 pm

Alternatively ‘UMa’.

Reply to  SadButMadLad
December 11, 2019 4:11 am

be funnier if theyd tagged it MS13 and given it a cute bandanna and a teardrop

Reply to  tomwys
December 10, 2019 6:48 am

The jury is still out on polar bear T-2020, whether it will survive or will slaughter those in its pursuit.

Reply to  Scissor
December 13, 2019 9:33 pm

They should have tagged it as the T-1000.

Hot under the collar
Reply to  tomwys
December 10, 2019 7:13 am

? Tag number 34? Or maybe (as the population has grown to dangerous levels) it was the 34th ‘Troublesome’ Bear they’d tagged that day!

Reply to  tomwys
December 10, 2019 7:29 am

Doncha know? The bear served as a walking billboard that advertised a Russian WW2 film.

Craig from Oz
Reply to  Marv
December 10, 2019 3:44 pm

Wait? What?

Why is the German tank commander shown standing in the turret hatch wearing white Waffenfarbe??

Suspension of Disbelief, people. Do you want me to watch your movies?!

charles nelson
Reply to  tomwys
December 10, 2019 10:56 am

B 52?

Reply to  tomwys
December 10, 2019 2:57 pm

T is for Terminator. This bear came back from the future and is the 34th model of this series of bear like Terminator.

Reply to  tomwys
December 11, 2019 3:15 am

T- Tracking Number or Trouble bear? But then, I don’t speak Russian, so English interpretations may be way off.

David Tallboys
December 10, 2019 6:27 am

T-34 best tank of WW2 in some respects.

And the Russians got the Christie suspension system to work better the the US or Uk at the time.

Reply to  David Tallboys
December 10, 2019 9:15 am

Far from the best tank, which would have to go to the M4 Sherman tank. The T-34 was initially better than what the Germans had when they initially invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa in the summer of 1941, but the Germans quickly surpassed the T-34 in capabilities of its tanks and anti-tank weaponry. The T-34 had a terrible record of both breakdowns in the field and losses in battle, with a total loss rate in WW Two of 55% (44K tanks out of 80K built) vs. the M-4 Sherman tank of 14% (7K losses out of 49K built). The Sherman was far more reliable than the T-34 and it never deserved the silly labels applied to it after the war was long over, such as “Ronson”. The Shermans were highly reliable, and when disabled were easily repaired in the field, which could not be said of any German tanks especially the Tigers and Tiger IIs. They were light enough to travel on virtually any road or bridge, and did not bog down in mud the way the heavier Tigers did. While they had less effective armor and gun than the Tigers, swarming tactics were used to overwhelm Tigers in actual battle, and being much cheaper to field we could and did build vastly more Shermans than the Germans built Tigers.

Reply to  Duane
December 10, 2019 12:02 pm

The T-34 was superior to the Sherman in virtually every way except for the radio, which was absent or virtually useless in the T-34.

Superior gun, superior armor, superior tracks, superior suspension, much less fire-prone (diesel engine, not four-stroke).

True, many more T-34 were lost, but then the Sherman was used on a much smaller scale, and for a much shorter period. The Russian front was the main battle-front of WW2.

Reply to  tty
December 10, 2019 2:21 pm

I’ll have to go with the assessment of someone that knows a whole lot more about tanks than I do – and The Chieftain rates the M4 pretty high. His “Oh my Goodness, my tank is on fire!” demonstration is pretty convincing. I know which one I’d rather be in.

The sights and dynamic balancing of the gun were actually better than anything else. The problem was – they neglected to train people on how to use it.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  tty
December 10, 2019 5:36 pm

One reason why the Sherman won out was sheer numbers. They could be made easily and quickly thanks to their design such as modular transmissions etc. The US made so many of them the Germans and Russians could not keep up. It was supremely adaptable like the floating Shermans of D-Day. They were relatively fast too compared to a Tiger. One let down was the engine, it was a radial, air-cooled, design for aircraft IIRC requiring high quality gas/petrol. Gun power became more effective with the 17 pounder British high-velocity 76mm gun.

“David Tallboys December 10, 2019 at 6:27 am

And the Russians got the Christie suspension…”

It was far superior to anything the Allies had. In fact it was turned down by the US military.

Reply to  Patrick MJD
December 10, 2019 7:10 pm

There were many different engine configurations and the radial engine was just one of them. The larger guns weren’t quite as effective as hoped as the cramped conditions they imposed within the turret hindered crew efficiency.

Reply to  Patrick MJD
December 11, 2019 5:36 am

The Christie suspension was worthless ..because the tank treads constantly broke in the field, even a little bit of dirt getting into the treads was enough to cause the tread to fail. A failed tread is a dead tank- a sitting duck, quite literally.

By 1942 the Germans were fielding anti-tank guns that easily penetrated the T-34 armor, and with all those T-34s sitting there dead on the road or dead in the field with a failed tread, they made easy peasy targets for the Germans.

Reply to  tty
December 10, 2019 7:16 pm

If you were a left handed Russian of military age during “The Great Patriotic War”, you automatically got assigned to tanks. You had to be left handed to be proficient as a loader in the T-34 – and lots of them came home without that left hand as the gun’s recoil went ALL the way back to the wall of the turret.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  TomB
December 11, 2019 12:50 am

Like many of my ex-Navy mates who operated gun turrets in the Falklands war.

Reply to  tty
December 10, 2019 8:54 pm

Indeed. Despite what Hollywood would have us believe, it was Russia which broke the back of the German Army and stopped Hitler. Losing around 20 million lives.

BTW a diesel engine is a four-stroke. It just uses less inflammable fuel.

Reply to  Greg
December 11, 2019 12:33 am
Reply to  tty
December 11, 2019 5:33 am

Not true. Shermans were vastly more reliable, while T-34s were pieces of junk, literally, that broke down all the time and were very difficult to fix in the field. The Shermans were the most reliable and easy to repair tank of the war. The 76mm gun of the later Shermans was much superior to the T-34 gun.

The bottom line is the bottom line – the loss rates for Shermans was a tiny fraction of the loss rate for T-34s.

December 10, 2019 6:30 am

T-34 doesn’t mean “tank”??? Awwww…. and that would have been such a CUTE name for a cuddly critter like that.

Just a question: why aren’t the locals burning their trash instead of just dumping it? Then T-34 and his friends would have nothing to chew on except stray villagers.

Ron Long
Reply to  Sara
December 10, 2019 7:13 am

Sara, you answered your own question (intentional or accidental?).

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Ron Long
December 10, 2019 10:54 am

Yes, but without the attraction of food, the locals would be less likely to run into bears.

Reply to  Planning Engineer
December 10, 2019 7:26 am

That explains more than the T, it explains the 34. They didn’t say but I am guessing what we think is a hyphen is in fact a negative sign so it literally means -0.34 which would be hard to read

Reply to  LdB
December 10, 2019 2:54 pm

To me it looks like T-24.

Reply to  noaaprogrammer
December 11, 2019 9:17 pm

… with a bar over the 2 … which I guess is the top part of the 3.

Reply to  Planning Engineer
December 10, 2019 8:50 am

Actually it explains quite a bit and much more if you read the story.
The bear was tagged and examined at “Point 34” corresponding to their grid maps.

More interestingly is the article went on to mention that these populations of bears are not retreating when the ice retreats and are becoming “landlocked” or separated from their traditional prey of seals and walruses. Could this perhaps be due to the accumulation of far easier food sources than expending energy caching food that runs away and fights back? Then as the weather warms and people are out and about more during they are driving the polar bears off into less traditional hunting grounds where they have no knowledge of predation and are disadvantaged by coloration. Failure is a real issue.

However its not the polar bears fault for falling into the trap of easy pickings, any more than its the factory worker who refuses to relocate when the plant closes.

There is a parable about a little song bird:
A little song bird became so enamored with life on the farm and his nice cozy perch near the barn that he decide that he wasn’t going to fly south with his friends for the winter. At first he was fine, but soon it became very cold. All the chickens were moved indoors to their coops, and food was no longer freely scattered on the ground. After many days of no food and cold he could take it no longer and fainted, falling from his perch. As he lay there freezing to death he though to himself how foolish he was. Just then a cow walk by aimlessly and dropped a load of manure atop the bird. The bird though, “OH great! How could this get any worse!” But shortly, he began to warm and feel much better so he began to sing. The barn yard cat upon hearing birdsong coming from a cow pie cam over to examine. The cat dug out the little bird and promptly ate it.

3 morals:
Not everybody who dumps a load of crap on you is your enemy.
Not everyone who digs you out from under a load of crap is your friend.
If you are warm and happy even though you are sitting in a pile of shit, keep your mouth shut!

Reply to  Rocketscientist
December 10, 2019 10:11 am

I’ve read that some hummingbirds are remaining along the furthest-south US Gulf coast areas because people are feeding them sugar water and apparently there’s enough insect food still available in the winter for them to survive. Traditionally they migrated into southern Mexico/Central America for the winter.

Reply to  Rocketscientist
December 10, 2019 12:12 pm

It is perfectly normal for Polar Bears to “go ashore” over the summer. They have always done it in the more southern part of their range, e. g. Hudson Bay, Baffin’s land, Spitzbergen, Novaya Zemlya, Wrangel’s land and Alaska.

They don’t hunt actively in summer, mostly living on accumulated fat, but if they get an opportunity to scavenge they will take it. Supposedly they don’t hunt in summer because any strenuous activity on land may result in heat-stroke. They prefer swimming to walking in summer for the same reason. And this has been so for a very long tme, otherwise the “dachshund-reindeer” on Spitzbergen could never have evolved.

Michael Ozanne
December 10, 2019 6:45 am

That town looks like someone tested a nuke near it…..

December 10, 2019 6:46 am

Hmmm… T-34 … tank … uh oh! … my mind’s starting to do strange things…

Thomas the tank engine. The meth years.
comment image

Reply to  icisil
December 11, 2019 4:19 am

that IS funny;-))))

Patrick MJD
December 10, 2019 6:52 am

“Cruel animal abusers daubed T-34 – the name of an iconic Soviet tank – on a wild polar bear.”

Wild?! I am sure the bear was livid!

Reply to  Patrick MJD
December 10, 2019 12:17 pm

Probably not. Polar Bears are actually rather phlegmatic animals, not nearly as aggressive as Grizzlies for example. But even so never go close to a Polar Bear, they don’t say no to an easy meal.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  tty
December 10, 2019 5:14 pm

I was hoping someone would pick up on the reference;

December 10, 2019 6:55 am

Thank-you Planning Engineer for the explanation.
So the ever pompous and hubristic WWF, with their representative saying, “Scientists could not do this, it could have been somebody who ‘joked’ like this.” are just wrong — again.

WWF where emotions always trump science!

John Bell
December 10, 2019 7:12 am

T-34 ? It could have been T34, is that not hyphen-abuse?

Reply to  John Bell
December 10, 2019 7:27 am

Not if that is a minus sign for -0.35

Reply to  LdB
December 10, 2019 10:52 am

Or if the temp at time of marking was -34.

Walter Sobchak
December 10, 2019 7:17 am
Reply to  Walter Sobchak
December 10, 2019 9:53 am

I got a ‘session expired’ message when I clicked on your link.

Anyway, polar bears are hard to get rid of once they’ve had a taste of garbage. If you’re camped out in the arctic, you have to burn your garbage thoroughly.

December 10, 2019 7:31 am

The article is probably more telling about Polar bear experts used by MSM than anything else. Got to get those experts with the right views not the ones who actually know their field.

Robert W Turner
December 10, 2019 7:32 am

“Poor sad polar bear news flash is over, morphing into an egg-on-the-face moment for WWF and Kochnev.”

Uh no, that’s not how any of this works. They are already distracted by the next delusional catastrophe and will never even be aware that they were wrong.

Reply to  Robert W Turner
December 10, 2019 10:22 am

Right — taking advantage of the habitual brief attention span of the avg indoctrinated useful-idjit. Trolls here use the same technique — “look at the squirrel!” When their attention quickly wanes, then “look at the other squirrel!” And on & on. See it every day in the Trump impeachment fiasco.

Tom Schaefer
December 10, 2019 8:23 am

Rather than Yogi Bear, the Russians might name it Medved Yaga .

Reply to  Tom Schaefer
December 10, 2019 11:05 am

In Soviet Russia, you don’t name bear, bear names you. 😉

Reply to  beng135
December 11, 2019 4:25 am


December 10, 2019 8:38 am

So let me get this straight.

The speculation was some kids:
A) spray painted an awake, moving polar bear
B) Found a sleeping polar bear, snuck up and spray-painted it
C) Acquired a strong tranq gun, tranq’d and tracked the polar bear, and while tranquilized, painted T-34 on it as a joke

and someone thought one of those options really happened? Seriously?

December 10, 2019 8:49 am

“Habituated dump bears are a wide-spread problem in the Kara Sea, as the photo of a fat bear checking out a container below shows.”
It seems to me that the presence of people in the area of bears is a bigger problem.

Tom Schaefer
Reply to  ren
December 10, 2019 10:18 am

Fat-shaming a bear. Do you even know if there is a BMI for polar bears? Name a wild animal that will not overeat if provided a easy food source.

Reply to  Tom Schaefer
December 10, 2019 7:05 pm

damn picky trout

December 10, 2019 9:20 am

They do the same thing in the Churchill (Bear Jail):
Before freeze-up, bears that are released from the holding facility are tranquilized and then transported by helicopter in a sling approximately 70 kilometers north of Churchill. They are then released along the coast of the Hudson Bay. Most of the bears will continue moving northward looking for the first ice to form.
At the time of release the bears are marked with a green cattle marker spot on the top of their shoulder. This spot allows for easy recognition of released bears during that season, but wears off within a month or two. Very few bears return to Churchill during the same season. Those that do return and are able to be recaptured are held until the end of the season.

December 10, 2019 9:23 am

The article I read claimed that the marking would mean that the bear would be unable to hunt because of camouflage failure. How good is a seal’s eyesight anyway?

Reply to  Susan
December 10, 2019 9:42 am

That comment simply illustrate how know-nothing Doomers don’t think things through, or know as much about life as they think they do. Polar bears don’t walk up sideways to prey; this is how they hunt.

Reply to  icisil
December 10, 2019 12:15 pm

Attenborough anthropomorphising a killing machine, whilst disregarding the fate of the Seal that got the chop.

I shouldn’t complain really given the almost universal use of female voice-overs for ‘Nature’ programs here in the UK now, that take the emoting gig to very high levels indeed. In that regard Attenborough is a piker. 🙂

Reply to  icisil
December 10, 2019 12:46 pm

That seal never got a chance to check for markings! When you look at it, polar bears are a dirty yellow colour and not well camouflaged on snow at the best of times.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Piggs Peak
Reply to  icisil
December 10, 2019 1:05 pm

Attenborough seems surprised that a polar bear can catch a seal under water.

Why does he think the seal was resting on the ice floe in the first place?

With a catch rate of 1 on 20 attempts the bear will do fine. He implies that bears have to eat all summer, as if they are people. Clearly he is unaware that polar bears don’t eat much at all in summer, fall and winter. The warmer weather reduces their need for energy.

People like Attenborough who don’t know much about polar bears should not make documentaries describing them. They fill the viewer’s heads with all sorts of silly misunderstandings.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo but really in Piggs Peak
December 10, 2019 5:38 pm

He’s been doing that since the 60’s, even to the point of affecting Bellamy’s career at the BBC, and at 92 he doesn’t appear to be stopping.

Reply to  Susan
December 10, 2019 10:39 am

It might be pretty good. Consider that those with poor eyesight are more likely to end up as a meal.

Reply to  yirgach
December 10, 2019 12:53 pm

A quick Google comes up with the info that seals’ eyesight is set for underwater and is not so good in air.

Reply to  Susan
December 10, 2019 12:25 pm

They don’t hunt in summer, so the problem is theoretical. By the way they moult from May to August and therefore may look a bit tatty in summer.

Snarling Dolphin
December 10, 2019 11:49 am

Ha! Likely story! Come on people!! The “T” is for Trump and “34” is the percentage of black likely voters who expressed support for him in the recent Rasmussen poll. Obviously he had his friend Vladimir paint this poor bear with no thought or care given to the bear’s wellbeing in order to troll the Democrats. He must be stopped! Should be another Article of impeachment if you ask me! Adam? It’s not too late!

John Boland
Reply to  Snarling Dolphin
December 10, 2019 6:12 pm

Most likely explanation to me… um, and polar bears are white so this is definitely racist.

December 10, 2019 4:31 pm

I saw Habituated Dump Bears open for Foghat in ’78.

Patrick MJD
December 10, 2019 5:11 pm

Just as long as the number isn’t T1000, we’ll be ok!

December 12, 2019 8:44 am

Just like the black bears in New Jersey. Expert dumpster divers.

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