Bears on Okhotsk sea coast, Russia
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2019: Bad Year for Human-Bear Conflicts in Russia

Conflicts between humans and the brown bear are on the rise across the predator’s range, in both North America and Eurasia. In Russia in the year of 2019, however, they’re taking an especially nasty turn. The year isn’t over yet, and the official stats have not been released, but we’re talking about dozens – probably over a hundred – bear-related deaths.

The worst thing is, while attacks on hunters, fishermen, berry and mushroom gatherers and other outdoors people are kinda the name of the game, as many as two people in Russia have been killed by bears in 2019 right in the middle of settlements!

The story of Sophia Chernigova, a 14-year-old schoolgirl from the township of Yodva, Komi Republic, is especially heart-breaking. On August 4, 2019, the younger of two daughters, loved by everyone at school and at home, asked her father if she could go to the general store to buy some fruit juice and a chocolate. Permission granted, she went out. When she did not return in due time, the father went out to look for her. In the center of the township he came across a group of young people standing over what appeared to be a dead body. At first, he refused to believe it was his daughter, even though the clothes looked familiar. But then he pulled out his phone, dialed her number, and heard the familiar ringtone coming from the remains.

Sophia Chernigova

Sophia Chernigova. Photo from her social network account.

There was a trash bin near the incident site, so, presumably, the bruin was feeding on the trash when it was interrupted by the girl (source).

On Sunday December 1, 2019, in the township of Vitimsky, Irkutsk Oblast, a 66-year-old local firefighter was, as usual, alone in his house at the edge of the township, preparing to go to bed, probably not looking forward to another day at work tomorrow. The new day didn’t dawn for him, because a brown bear came to the house, broke through the window, wracked havoc inside, and killed and ate the man.

Three local hunters, assisted by police officers, were requested to look for the bear. They spend the day in fruitless search, and sat in ambush near the accident site. The bear did what bears naturally do – returned to the kill site – and as soon as there was shooting light they killed it (source).

I repeat that both incidents happened in established human settlements, so the “humans invade the bear’s territory” line is not applicable.

Cover photo (c) Mikhail Krechmar / Russian Hunting Portal


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