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29 Oct, 2010 01:12

Bear scare: hungry animals get closer to people

The bear is one of the iconic images of Russia. However, in some parts of Russia the relationship between these animals and people has become less than cordial this autumn.

The searing heat and fires which swept through Russia over the summer destroyed much of the bears’ winter food supply, forcing them to search for alternatives.

In the central Russian city of Syktyvkar, 26-year-old Andrey Kotikov had a very lucky escape after he was attacked by a bear right in the center of the city.

The man was bitten in the neck and now realizes how fortunate he was.

“I still cannot understand how I escaped death,” he said. “I somehow managed to push the animal away, so he fell, crushing a fence.”

However, elsewhere in the city there was a more macabre incident involving a bear.

While visiting a cemetery, two women saw what they believed to be a large man crouching by a grave. As they got closer they realized that it was in fact a bear which had dug up a body and was feeding on it. The women's screams scared the animal away.

“Hunters took turns guarding the cemetery,” said local public service worker Olga Butakova. “So far there has been no sign of the bear. So we have the situation under control.”

It is not just the human residents, though, that have had some close encounters with bears this autumn. Airport CCTV cameras caught a guard dog having to run for its life after drawing the attention of an inquisitive bear.

“We were told that the bear came from the direction of town,” said Nina Kelemenkova, from the airport security service. “The dog attacked it. It tried to smother the dog. The dog got away and started leading the bear away from the house.”

Recently bears have also taken to attacking livestock as a source of food in the Yukamensky district in central Russia. Hunters have had to be employed to protect cattle.

Still, in some cases humans make problems for themselves with bears.

Now, when animals can be seen outside the forests in search for food, motorists stop to feed them and take an unusual photo. Authorities strongly recommend refraining from such “entertainment” in order to remain safe.