Bears Go Hungry After Russia’s Record Floods, Some Will Be Shot

Record rains in July and August have swelled rivers in Russia’s Far East and caused flooding not seen in a century. Yakutia, a vast region in the northeast of tundra and forests, has been the hardest hit. More thaná100,000 people have been affected and damages (10,000 homes have been ruined) expected to total 30 billion rubles (about $91 million).

Wildlife have certainly suffered. Bears have been left hungry as the floods have destroyed the blueberries, cranberries and lingonberries that they usually eat their fill of in the summer. After six cases of famished bears breaking into homes and emptying refrigerators, authorities in the Yakutia region are responding to the pleas of residents by saying they will shoot “aggressive” bears.

It is unusual for bears to attack humans and, according to the head of the region’s hunting department, Nikolai Smetanin, bears are rarely hunted. The “dispiriting cataclysm” of the flooding and the loss of the berries has led to authorities saying that people can contact them in a “threatening situation.”

Russia’s Amur region (home to endangered species including the Amur or Siberian tiger) has been the most affected by the floods, says The Moscow Times. While the floods are moving downstream to the Jewish Autonomous Area and Khabarovsk, the waters are not expected to recede from the Amur region for weeks. Cattle have drowned in droves or been killed to prevent disease. The Russian army has joined rescue workers and volunteers to build dams and pump out water; soldiers have been sent to guard abandoned houses from looters.

Ecologists are linking the floods to global warming and also cautioning that more parts of Russia could face severe weather conditions. President Vladimir Putin has been skeptical about global warming in the past, at one time joking that this would mean that Russians would have to buy fewer fur coats and have longer growing seasons. Widespread forest fires in 2010 reportedly led Putin to say that Russians were being more “open-minded” about the possibility of human activity influencing the climate.

Putin toured the flooded Khabarovsk region Thursday and thereby came “face-to-face” with the realities of climate change. But ecologists are not expecting any change in the government’s policies which have consistently put business and industry ahead of environmental concerns, The Moscow Times says.

Bears have been a symbol of Russia since at the 17th century and frequently appear in folk tales, proverbs, literature and more. Saying that “we respect the bear, we treat it like it’s another hunter,” Smetanin, the hunting director in the Yakutia region, adds that the decision to shoot bears who are “aggressive” will not mean “extermination of all bears.”

Indeed, two adult bears were flown via helicopter to high ground from the Zelyonaya resort in Sochi — in, that is, the very region where the 2014 Winter Olympics are to be held.

Given the global criticism towards Russia due to its anti-LGBT crackdown and anti-gay propaganda law, the government is, perhaps, a bit more inclined to save bears there. But starving bears in the Yakutia region are instead more likely to be killed as they struggle to survive in a flood-infested region unlike anything they have ever known before.

Photo from Thinkstock

131 comments

Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for the article.

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PrimaSICK B.
PrimaAWAY B3 years ago

Katherine W.
6:52AM PDT on Sep 30, 2013
See post by Patricia S................could not have said it better myself. Why do the animals continue to be on the front lines for suffering for situations that were not their creation?

I feel badly for the humans affected by this flooding. Both these humans and the bears need to be helped. And shooting these bears is not the answer..........
.

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Katherine Wright
Katherine Wright4 years ago

See post by Patricia S................could not have said it better myself. Why do the animals continue to be on the front lines for suffering for situations that were not their creation?

I feel badly for the humans affected by this flooding. Both these humans and the bears need to be helped. And shooting these bears is not the answer..........

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Sue H.
.4 years ago

This is so sad, both for all the homeless people and the animals. With climate change the weather will continue to become more restless as time goes by. Unless we all do our part things will continue to get worse year by year.

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Donna Ferguson
Donna F4 years ago

sad! ty

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Carrie-Anne Brown

so sad but thanks for sharing

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Georgeta Trandafir

sad...tragic

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Patricia S.
Patricia Strauss4 years ago

People have been providing food for wildlife during this when food is scarce due to any number of extreme conditions. They provide the food by either dropping it from helicopters or low flying planes in areas that they know are populated by the starving animals (not only bears) and do not have any human contact with these animals.

I can't not understand the lack of humanity and concern for all living things by those who choose killing rather than sustaining suffering and starving animals. It is time to step up and keep animals alive rather than driving them to extinction.

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Anne Lewis

P.S.-the bears in NM are Black bears. The ones in Montana, etc. are grizzlies, thus similar to the Russian Brown bears.

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