Russian town besieged by hungry bears
Residents afraid as bears roam the streets in search of food in Russia’s Primorsky region
In 2010, a scorching summer left bears in Siberia so hungry that some began digging up human graves. Photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters
Dozens of hungry bears have besieged a small town in Russia’s far east, roaming the streets and attacking residents.
In the past month, more than 30 bears have entered inhabited areas in Russia’s Primorsky region, located between China, North Korea and the Sea of Japan. Local authorities have had to shoot at least two animals.
Luchegorsk, a town of 21,000 on the river Kontrovod near the Chinese border, has been particularly affected.
Two large bears - a brown bear and a Himalayan bear - are now “ruling over” Luchegorsk, wandering the streets and scaring local people, the Primorskaya newspaper reported.
Asian black bears have also been seen, and a further three dozen bears are circling the town, according to other reports.
Local people say they are afraid to leave their homes and that the streets are filled with the sounds of sirens and loudspeakers telling citizens not to go outside for their own safety, VladNews reported. In one case, bears reportedly ransacked bee hives kept by locals. Kindergartens have kept children inside.
There is good reason for the caution: a dashcam recently captured footage of a bear jumping out from beneath a balcony to attack a man in Luchegorsk as he was walking his dog near the entrance to his apartment building. Another man was wounded in a bear attack at the local bus station.
Vladimir Vasilyev, head of the Primorsky region’s animal control department, said the situation in Luchegorsk had “stabilised” thanks to the efforts of police and game wardens.
“Law enforcement officers are using the sirens on their cars to chase away the bears and are shooting in the air to frighten them,” Vasilyev said, adding that some bears had been dispersed with fire hoses.
“Two animals have had to be shot since the start of this invasion. They needed to be neutralised because they posed a real threat to humans and were attacking local residents.”
Vasilyev was apparently referring to an incident in August when a mother bear and her grown cub roamed the streets of Luchegorsk looking for food. After the cub attacked a man, police and game wardens shot both bears. The man was later taken to hospital.
Other reports put the number of bears killed higher. A game warden told the OTV Primorye channel he had to shoot a bear when it turned on him as he was trying to chase it out of Luchegorsk.
Experts believe the hungry bears have been migrating to the Primorsky region from neighbouring Khabarovsk and China in search of food. The number of bears in Primorsky has also grown in recent years due to fewer hunters, Pavel Fomenko of the World Wildlife Fund told news agency Rosbalt.
Poor yields this year of Manchurian walnuts, acorns, pine nuts and berries across all these areas have deprived the bears of their main sources of food to fatten up for winter hibernation, sending them into towns in looking to eat.
A heatwave last summer coincided with a rash of bear attacks in Russia’s far east that left at least three people dead. In 2010, a scorching summer left bears in Siberia so hungry that some began digging up human graves.
The bear invasion is unlikely to subside any time soon. “We predict that failing to find food in the taiga (Boreal Forest), bears will come to where people live more and more,” Vasilyev said.