Wildlife authorities in some of Russia’s more remote and wild regions warn residents to stay inside after dark after several encounters with wild animals resulted in attacks on humans, livestock, and guard dogs. Authorities in areas such as Kamchatka and Bashkiria said that they shoot aggressive animals, even from the air. The situation worsened with the arrival of the cold season. Hungry predators search for food as their resources in the forest become increasingly difficult to find, so, the animals search for food in the villages. In Kamchatka this year, authorities recorded a large number of anomalous bears that didn’t go into winter hibernation. So far, the bears killed three people and seriously injured two more.
However, the bears’ main target is livestock and poultry. Local scientists and hunters said that they believed that the bears are unable to hibernate because they’re still hungry. This year, rivers in Kamchatka had few fish, and bears had a hard time finding enough berries in the forests. Many predators didn’t have time to store up fat; now, they roam in search of food, even near settlements. Kamchatka Krai introduced a special decree… the authorities decided to shoot all bears not in “voluntary” winter sleep. They’ve already killed 140 predators. In Bashkiria in mid-October, a bear attacked and killed a mushroom collector.
Whilst bears remain a problem, some authorities consider wolves to be a greater threat. Primarily, their victims are pet dogs in yards. Usually, dogs are on a leash, so, they can’t fight the wolves. In the Komi Republic, wolves bit three pet dogs. In Kaliningrad Oblast, wolves ate 35 sheep and 20 cows. In Tuva, there were 15 attacks by wolves on livestock. In Lugansk Oblast, wolves tore up nine sheep. According to locals, this is the first case where predators attacked domestic animals within inhabited areas. In areas where wolf attacks are random, local authorities don’t issue formal permits for killing predators. They tell frightened residents to follow simple safety precautions. Don’t go out at night, don’t let children out unaccompanied, lock pet dogs inside the house, and call the authorities if you encounter a wild animal. Bears, unlike wolves, rarely go to towns, so, precautions to follow in regards to them are different. Don’t go into the woods alone, and if you walk in the woods, talk loudly, or even sing, so that the animals can hear you. If you see a bear, don’t make any sudden movements; move away slowly and smoothly. If a bear attacks, it’s better to fall on the ground and pretend to be dead. Chances of escaping from a bear or hiding in a tree are negligible.
However, there are regions where these recommendations aren’t enough. If the number of dangerous animals exceeds established standards, one must reduce their number by force. By law, killing wild animals is punishable by fines from 2,000 to 5,000 Roubles (61-153 USD. 64-162 CAD. 67-169 AUD. 44-110 Euros. 37-93 UK Pounds). The Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment does issue permits for “prey hunting resources in order to regulate herd numbers”. The police or hunters can do the shooting. Under federal law, you can only kill wolves with a gun… the law strictly forbids using traps and poisons. For these purposes, the government allots separate funds for the regions. For example, in Yakutia, the struggle with wolves will cost 32 million Roubles (976,000 USD. 1.034 million CAD. 1.078 million AUD. 708,000 Euros. 596,000 UK Pounds). Besides guns, local authorities want to use light aircraft to shoot wolves.
However, according to Nikolai Vyshegorodskih, the Head of Protection and Use of Wildlife, Aquatic Biological Resources, and Environmental Safety of Oryol Oblast, regulating wolf populations by violent means is necessary only in exceptional cases. He said, “Wild wolves attacking humans is extremely rare. Sixty percent of the diet of these animals is rats and other small animals. They’re afraid of people”. In his view, wolves play an important role in the food chain, saying, “Let’s take, for instance, Oryol Oblast. Once wolves come here, then, it sharply reduces the number of stray dogs, cats, and rabid foxes. Sometimes, they eat pet dogs. However, from the viewpoint of natural selection, it’s a normal process. Dogs are socially adapted to people and poorly adapted to life in nature, so, a stronger link in the food chain kills them… the wolf, and in the Far East, it’s the tiger”. Vyshegorodskih noted that as soon as a territory becomes free of wolves, rats, foxes, and wild dogs take their place, which assume the role of predator, and attack humans. He said, “In this situation, wolves are rather good”.
7 December 2013
Russia Behind the Headlines