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Bear, Bystraya river 301Bystraya river, bearsBystraya river, bears 1








Opala river, bear 1Brown bear, like salmon, is the symbol of Kamchatka. These animals always inhabited our peninsula in large number.

Bears are the largest among today beasts of prey. The length of some specimen can reach 10 feet, weight - 1.600 pounds. Kamchatka bears are the largest among Russian ones. Males weight 1 300 pounds, the length of their body is to 9 feet. Females are smaller.

Bears have a weighty body: five-toyed strong legs with big claws, plantigrade, with short tail, heavy head with small eyes and short ears. One-colored long-hair. The color of fur is wide-ranging – from light-straw to almost black and doesn’t change in seasons. Opala river, bear 305The skull is big, with big crests and malar bows. Canine teeth are strong, while other teeth are not, because of mixed nourishment; predatory teeth are not developed. As a matter of fact brown bear is omnivorous. In summer it eats ants, carrion, hoofed mammals; in June – insects and tall grasses (angelica, cow-parsnip), birds eggs; in autumn – fish, berry (raspberry, cowberry, blueberry, ashberry, hips, cranberry, bird cherry), gnawers. It may feed on oats from fields as well. Fish is the main food for bears of Kamchatka, but they may eat berry, cedar nuts, meat of animals and carrion. Bears are mainly nocturnal beasts. The size of hind feet trails of adult male can be 0.7-1 feet.

The most typical places of dwelling of brown bears are dense forests with wind-fallBear, Bystraya River, autumn trees, intermittent marshes, lawns and ponds. In summer bears settle for rest, lying straight on the ground among grass, bushes, in moss so that the place could be remote and safe enough. In winter the animals are often confine themselves to lying in thick fir saplings, near a tree, having brought there heaps of moss and fir branches in the form of big nest. Dens are often situated in holes under the protection of windfalls or roots of fallen trees. Bears stay in dens for about 5-6 months. Female bears with bear cubs live the longest time in dens, old males – the least time. Bears do not go into real hibernation. Their state may be called as a winter sleep for they keep complete viability, sensitiveness and leave their den in case of danger, and after wandering about the forest occupy another one. However drowsy animals in dens do not consume much Bears, destroye 1energy because of fat accumulated in the autumn. Some years bears do not have enough time to batten in autumn because of a poor crop of cedar nuts or a poor run of fish, and in winter become homeless bears that do not hibernate and dangerous for people they meet on their way.

In summer bears have a rut that lasts from May to July. Usually silent animals start emitting loud roar. Cruel fights emerge between males and sometimes they end in death of one of the rivals, which even may be eaten by the winner. After the pregnancy, that lasts about 6-8 months, female bear finds 2-3, seldom 4 of 5 cubs of 1.1 pounds weight each, absolutely helpless. Bear cubs are born blind but recover their sight in one month. By spring they become the same height as a small dog and besides milk live on greenery, berry and incests. Sometimes underyearlings (youngs of theBears, destroye 2 current year) keep together with youngs of the last year. The duration of life of brown bears is quiet long – animals hold in captivity had lived till the age of 45.

It is easy to find bear steps in spring, when it leaves its den, because the snow hasn’t melted at this period. During fodder shortage bears may scrape buds with their teeth from thin trees especially from asps. Asps are usually brought down after it. In general bears are not good in “managing” in the forest, especially in autumn: they throw down most high-yielding mountain ashes, break cedar branches and destroy anthills in spring. Moreover, they leave notches on a plain bark of trees. Having found a tree near a path bears stand up straight, scratch it with hind legs and tear it off mercilessly with huge claws of their arms – the length of their claws may reach 4 inches. Bears, ggggAfter this, the bark hangs in shreds. Apparently, bears mark the borders of their area in such a way. In wild places bears make paths, which they use for many years. This is how the geologist Karl Ditmar who visited Kamchatka with his expedition about 150 years ago described bears` paths: “These wonderful roads are the rightest ways to easy passes through the mountains and to the shallowest places of rivers, they bypass steep capes and rocks and also the most impassible cedar and alder thickets; bears paths certainly lead to rivers and lakes abounding in fish, to the most baccate places. The whole Kamchatka peninsula from south to north and from east to west is crossed by such good and trampled down paths in all directions. Often you can see paths that evidently from immemorial times were used as roads for bears, well puddled, about half a meter of width, cleared from grass. A new comer, who suddenly gets from grass and bush thickets to such a path, will think that it is a road that leads to populous villages…”

Approximate number of brown bears in Kamchatka is about 7-9 thousands of specimen. Bears belong to valuable hunter’s animals, but bear hunting is limited. However, there is much poaching. They kill bears mainly because of their fell, and also gall, that is considered to be a valuable crude drug.

Bears always meant enormous amount in life of natives. This is what the first explorers of Kamchatka Georg Steller and Stepan Krasheninnikov wrote about brown bear in their monographies with the same title “The description of the Kamchatka Land” (both books were published in the middle of the 18th century).

As Steller wrote, there was indescribable number of black bears in Kamchatka, called “gaas” or “gaza”. “Beyond all doubt they would have devastated the whole Kamchatka, if they were not tamer, more peaceable and good-natured than anywhere in the wide world”, - Steller wrote. “In spring these animals descend from mountains in crowds, from river heads, where they went in autumn in search of food and for hibernation. They reach mouths of rivers and standing on the shore, catch fish, which they throw on the shore; and if there is much fish at this time, they eat only jowls, like dogs. Having found a stretched fishing net with the haul somewhere, bears pull it out of water and take all the fish out. With the approach of autumn, when fish goes upstream, they follow it little by little in the mountains. Having met a bear, the Itelmen confines himself to greeting and from the distance offers to keep friendship with it. However, girls and women when gathering ears and sarana on the turf moors, and having stumbled upon a run of bears, are not confused about it at all. And if it happens, that some of the bears are directed towards them, it means it only wants to take the gather away and to eat it. In general these animals never attack people unless they bother their sleep. Bears become so impudent that, like thieves, they break into barns and houses, where they rummage everything they meet on their way.” Then Steller notes, that bears behave so to imitate the Kamchatka people. Like the inhabitants, they husk “puchka”, the so-called sweet grass. Besides, they like stems of the plant called “bear’s pipe” which got its name because of this fact. Then Georg Steller writes: “From June till autumn some bears are fat, in spring they become very lean. If you kill them in their den in spring, you won’t find anything in their stomach and entrails, except foamy mucus. You can seldom meet more than one bear in a den. One of the most abusive words the Itelmens use is the word “keran”, that means “bear”. This is how they usually swear at their lazy draught dogs.”

S. Krasheninnikov adds that it is so important for the Kamchatka man to kill a bear, that they often invite guests and entertain them with bear meat. Beds, blankets, hats, mittens and dog collars are made of bear fell. Meat and fat are considered to be the best meal. Bear skin is used for making slip-resistant soles. Moreover, they make scythes for mowing grass of bear bladebones. They even use entrails – having rubbed off fat (which the Kamchatka people also use for oiling face so that the skin was soft), they seal up windows with the films. As Steller describes, they hung bear heads under booths as decoration.