Thursday, January 28, 2010
MORE ON KAMCHATKA BROWN BEARS
New York Times, July 24, 2008,
A Bear Menace in Russia, Where They Are Revered
By Michael Schwirtz
Russia’s bears have traditionally been a national symbol of pride and potency, mythologized in fairy tales and depicted in advertisements and on the flag of Russia’s top political party. They are as hallowed in Russia as the bald eagle is in the United States.
Today, however, Russia’s bears are on the attack.
Some thirty gigantic and ravenously hungry Kamchatka brown bears have already killed and eaten two men at a platinum mine in Russia’s Far Eastern Kamchatka region and appear to be hunting for more. People in the region have been forced to cower in their homes waiting for hunters to dispose of the animals, which can stand 10 feet tall and weigh up to 1,500 pounds.
Local officials have considered exterminating the creatures, and a group of hunters has already been dispatched to the region where most of the bears have gathered. Hunters killed at least 300 bears last year and poachers shot about 600 more illegally, the Guardian reported.
“These predators have to be destroyed,” Viktor Leushkin, a village official, told Itar-Tass. “Once they kill a human, they will do it again and again.”
The Kamchatka brown bears are massive, weighing up to 1,500 pounds, but they typically shy away from humans. Yet a sharp decline in salmon, their traditional food, due to poaching has forced them to seek out other food sources, as more and more unfortunate people have come to discover.
The wilds of Kamchatka, an ethereal region of active volcanoes and hot springs, is not the only place in Russia facing attacks by hungry bears. The Times Online reports that three people have died this year from bear attacks on near-by Sakhalin Island. Another woman was found mauled to death in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski, the capital of the Kamchatka region.