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Starving polar bear plucked to safety from the rubbish dump

Safe now: A zoologist checks the polar bear before she is taken away for medical treatment PICTURE: GETTY

A POLAR BEAR thought to have strayed 950 miles from her Arctic home may have been raised in captivity by poachers, experts believe.

The 440lb female was finally captured yesterday on the rubbish dump where she had been scavenging for food in the Russian city of Norilsk.

Experts said that her fur was too clean for a long-distance trek and said she was too young, at one or two years old, for such a journey. She also seemed untroubled by being close to people, whereas a hungry wild bear would immediately turn aggressive. Zoologists believe she had been caught as a cub and was probably destined for a private owner — or to be sold for her pelt, worth up to £25,000.

Hungry: Scavenging for food on a landfill site in Norilsk

But the poachers may have got cold feet. Russia last year tightened its laws on poaching with offenders facing up to seven years in jail.

The bear was caught by Oleg Kokorev, from Royev Ruchei Zoo in Krasnoyarsk, who shot her with a tranquiliser dart. He said: ‘The safest thing was to immobilise her, so that there were no injuries and additional stress.

Rescued: The tranquillised bear in a crate PICTURE: GETTY

‘She let me approach her to within 82ft. I fired a remote injector with a dart and she immediately lay down. She was placed in a transport cage, checked, and is now completely over the anaesthetic, sitting and waiting for departure.’

The bear will be flown to a Royev zoo today. Vet Georgy Belyanin said: ‘She spent several days in the dump and has diarrhoea, a dangerous condition which requires treatment.’