Raccoon dogs thought extinct in the Altai Mountains since the early 1950s have been again detected in Russia's south Siberian Altai Republic, a source in the regional government said on Wednesday.

Traces of an unknown dog-like creature had previously been detected by Russian biologist Genrikh Sobansky near Lake Teletskoye in the northeastern part of the republic. He later came to the conclusion that the trail belonged to a raccoon dog, an animal which looks much like the North American raccoon, but is only distantly related.

Local residents and hunters later confirmed that they had met an unknown animal in nearby forests, and its description was similar to that of the raccoon dog.

The animal, which is native to the Far East, was released in many parts of the Soviet Union in the 1930s. Over 100 raccoon dogs were sent to the Altai Mountains in 1934, but in the early 1950s the whole population is thought to have died off as a result of unusually harsh winters.

The scientists say that the raccoon dogs could have migrated to Altai from other Siberian regions where they had managed to survive.