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Sleepless in the Kuril Islands

With the advent of winter, not all brown bears in Kamchatka lay down in their lairs

Sleepless in the Kuril Islands
Photo: Liana Varavskaya


Bear in the snowdrift also looks exotic, like a snowman on a flower bed or a birdhouse with chicks on a flown aspen. Liana Varavskaya For several seasons she has been blogging about brown bears of the Kuril Lake on Instagram. Throughout the summer and fall, her posts have garnered enthusiastic comments and "likes". At the end of November, 20 cm snow fell on the shores of the lake, the temperature dropped to -12 ° С. And the bears remained. Subscribers suspected them of rods.


In the South Kamchatka Reserve lives the largest protected group of brown bears in Russia - about 1000 individuals. Now at the grassy station Liana watches three females with cubs and one large alpha. This week, one of the "sleepless" brown mums - the bear Natasha - still looked at the winter apartments near the cordon. The rest of the animals do not rush into the den, you can see through binoculars up to 20 bears.  

- Bear cubs are carried in the snow, they are shaggy, fluffy, by the winter they have grown a long fur. Now they are more cautious and shy than in the summer. But we did not see the frozen bear, frozen or trembling from the cold! Aggression animals do not show - the technician of security service of the South Kamchatka federal reserve named after Tikhon Shpilenka Liana Varavskaya shared with East Russia. 



There are few tourists at this time, the peak of visits to the reservoir at the active volcano Ilyinsky falls in July-September. They get to Kurilskoye by helicopter, but because of the unpredictable weather, it is difficult to fly here, and on arrival it is easy to get stuck for three weeks. Inspectors work here as watches, and after a few months they know the bears as “faces”. 

- Three bear cubs get under the electric fence to the territory of the cordon and frolic, as they can: rip off the bath, eat something, and recently the "sorcerer" - said Inspector Konstantin Lepsky. - There are a lot of young solitary bears in the lake from the age of 3 to 5 years. They move from the river to the river, swim in the lake and rush along the shore, they do not climb the cordon, which makes me very happy. Adult large males, I usually see in the estuary of the river Etamynk.


It is not the first time that local bears have announced a boycott of the den, some start looking for a nap only after the New Year. It's all about fish and special climatic conditions. The deepest reservoir in Kamchatka freezes once a decade. Lake Kurilskoe - the largest spawning ground of sockeye salmon in Asia with a herd manufacturers within 1,5-3,5 million. After entering the lake, the krasnitsa ripens for a long time in the pelagic zone. This species of Pacific salmon in the Kurile spawns from July until the end of February (!) At a water temperature up to + 1C. There is also such a phenomenon as ice spawning, although, it would seem, what kind of love is there…. Now there are a lot of dead and dead sockeye in the water. But while this fish restaurant is open in the fresh air, its late customers do not leave the coast. 


- The trigger mechanism in the occurrence of bears in hibernation is not the presence or absence of snow, but the absence of food. At their skin and fatness snow and temperature do not excite them. While the fish is available, a certain part of the bears continues to feed, and grows to an incredible size. That is, for example, some yearlings on the Kuril lake reach such sizes as normal cubs reach in the third year! Just goes a bag of fat. I'm comfortable with them. While the mother is feeding, the cubs are guided by the behavior on it and also feed. I do not like the word "unique", but on the Kuril lake, not only to Kamchatka, but also to the whole of Russia, unique conditions - commented East Russia Alexander Nikanorov, a consultant to the scientific department of the Kronotsky Reserve FGBU, the structural unit of which is the South Kamchatka Federal Wildlife Refuge named after Tikhon Shpilenka.

There is no single winter signal, "retreat" for Russian bears, it is also meaningless to calculate it, as the average temperature of patients in the hospital. Animals in the Yaroslavl region and the Kamchatka Territory, for example, have their own phenological periods. In different parts of the country, the winter sleep of brown bears lasts from 75 to 195 days. In the south of the range, where the winter is not very snowy, the bears in general sabotage the period. The longest spend in hibernation females with offspring, least of all - males aged. Why, on the Kuril Lake, do some bears already suck their paws, while others do not? And can the latter simply not get enough sleep?    


- Someone loves to eat more, excuse me. People need to explain in simple terms. Someone is a glutton, yes. He already has enough fat, and he bursts and bursts. Others gained normal fat and went to bed. Because then it is difficult to lie in the den, you need to dig out a layer of snow, then another 5-6 centimeters of frozen soil. Then dig a den. And those who lay down in dry autumn, they have the opportunity to do everything in advance without unnecessary costs, and make more dry bedding. And late lying down, as a rule, just on the ground, on damp ground. Such cons. Although it is convenient to equip a den on Kurilskiy - there are steep slopes, caves and dwarf thickets. 

Do not get enough sleep only those who have run out of fat, and they prematurely rose from the den. And we have a plump, like a barrel, spring out of the dens in the spring, as if he did not lose fat! And some get out skin and bone. Some have more energy costs, or have accumulated a little fat, and it's already out of hibernation. Someone in the Kurile Lake is asleep 3 months. Someone - 6 months. In the Valley of Geysers, one female with cubs almost got out of the den near the end of June. We will not mechanize, every bear - individuality - added Alexander Nikanorov.


Kuril Lake is not the only one where bears walk around in winter. IN Kronotsky Reserve, where spawns late coho, bears are delayed until December. For example, during the rivers Kronotskaya and Tikhaya and on the banks of the Semyachik Estuary. Fishing on the white coast continues, mainly, the large male dominants, already expelled by that time their rivals.

But even in such nourishing regions there can be real cranks. The awakened animals are aggressive, can attack humans and have a small chance of surviving until spring. In the rest of Kamchatka, which is not a reserved Kamchatka, bears are provoked by numerous garbage dumps on the outskirts of cities and villages, and by hunting in a den. If an animal raised from hibernation manages to escape, especially a wounded animal, it will 100% try to take revenge on the person. The first one to get in the way. 

Photo Shoot: Liana Varavskaya, Igor Shpilenok, Andrey Gabov. 

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