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Interview with Igor Chestin

Igor Chastin, the Head of World Wildlife Fund in Russia, commented to Russia Today on the tragic accident of a bear killing a man, and such cases in general, in Russia.

Russia Today: How often do you see this sort of attack, when a bear actually attacks a human taking care of him?

Igor Chastin: In Russia on average, I would say, there are about a hundred registered cases of bears attacking humans. Normally people do not die, but they are either scared or injured. There are essentially more which people simply do not report. I would say it is not too much, taking into account that there are about 140,000 bears and brown bears in Russia and people, especially in rural areas, are very keen on going into the forests for different reasons.

RT: What are the causes of a bear's attack on a human?

I.C.: I would classify the major reasons in the following way: First of all, the most dangerous case is when people go hunting bears, say when the bear is wounded but not killed immediately than it will almost certainly attack. That is the most dangerous situation. However, people are normally prepared for that, they are equipped with guns and they are prepared to be attacked.

But the most common way of being attacked by bear is when people simply go out to the forest for picking berries or mushrooms, for picking wood, and somehow they approach a bear. And when the bear gets scared and it starts running away trying to escape as fast as a bear can. And if a person is in its way – he can be attacked. Normally the bear will not stop. It may simply throw the person down, without killing him or biting him.

Then there is also when bears really hunt people, especially in the Siberian regions. I do not think it was ever registered in the European part of Russia, but in Siberia in some years, when there is an especially poor crop of major food sources, and bears cannot accumulate enough fat to go into the winter hibernation, they start wandering around settlements trying to get some food. And some bears turn into real predators against humans, but that is an extremely rare case. It does not happen every year but it can be a real problem for some settlements. In 1961, in just one village near the Baikal Lake, thirty bears were killed in one month, coming to the village for humans, looking for food, and, of course, posing a big threat.