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Hungry, exhausted, only half their normal weight: Tragedy for black bears

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27 March 2017


A bear climbing a tree in Khabarovsk region.' Picture: Sergey Kolchin

The Asiatic black bear is facing catastrophe in areas of eastern Russia, a leading scientist has warned. A short video highlights a bear, also known as Himalayan, climbing a tree in a snowy November. 

What's unusual about that? By now, this bear should have been hibernating for several weeks or longer. 

Dr Sergey Kolchin told The Siberbian Times: 'For the last two years extremely hard conditions developed in Khabarovsk region for wild animals that depend on Korean pine and Mongolian oak for their food. 

The animals missed their key feeding periods for two years in succession.' Picture: Sergey Kolchin

'In 2015, across almost the entire area of cedar broad-leaf forests there was a simultaneous bad harvest of nuts and acorns, in Khabarovsk and Primorsky regions. 

'In 2016 this was repeated in Khabarovsk region. The lack of autumn food for two years in a row is an abnormal phenomenon which has turned into  tragedy for the black bear.'

The animals missed their key feeding periods for two years in succession. Too hungry to hibernate, they became exposed to the harsh cold - and resulting diseases. 

It is the first time in the history of  observations of these Asiatic bears in Russia that 'exhausted' animals have failed to hibernate, and this applies to adults and cubs.

Many died of hunger and cold, said the scientist, who is research fellow of the Institute of Water and Environmental Problems of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

'On their bodies we saw the signs of skin diseases -  large areas with a lack of hair,  probably the result of weakened immunity and metabolic disorders.

He highlighted this shocking fact: The dead animals were emaciated. Their weight was only half the norm for black bears. 'We found many bears that died of hunger and cold in forests, and in dens,' said Dr Kolchin.

 Many died of hunger and cold.' Picture: Sergey Kolchin, Priamurye Nature Reserve

'We have registered cases when bears hibernated in (inappropriate places which are not suitable) for black bears. 

'The bears that managed to accumulate some strength and survive in autumn and hibernate, began to wake up earlier than usual - in the middle of February. 

'By that time, the organism had completely exhausted its resource. The  probability is that that some will not survive the spring.'

Why the crisis?

Experts claim it is largely due to the general critical state of cedar-broad-leaved forests, transformed by years of logging. Others say climate change is a factor in preventing the growth and ripening of food vital to the survival of the bears. 

The bears began to wake up earlier than usual.' Picture: Sergey Kolchin, Priamurye Nature Reserve

Dr Kolchin said: 'Factors like weather and natural fruiting cycles influenced what happened. Extensive logging added to it. Summer 2016 was very cold and rainy and while oak trees had good blossoming time, acorns didn't form due to abundant moisture and cold. 

'Primorsky region also had a bad harvest in northern and central districts, but it was not as severe as Khabarovsk region. Extensive logging added to problems for the Himalayan bears in surviving the hungry season.' 

Significantly, in Bikin national park - protected from logging - the most numerous population of black bears is thriving. There was a reduced harvest of nuts and acorns, but sufficient for survival, say experts. 

'The bears  hibernated in time,' he said. 'We did not observe here animals that failed to hibernate, or were exhausted, or died of hunger during the winter.' 

Comments (4)

This is one of the two areas in the world that seem to care of Eco-Conservation! Knowledgeable communication is vital. The Bear is significant on many levels to these areas. It's truly sad when actors/actresses, and politicians choose to make "fun" of this issue rather than lend resources to help. Keeping in mind that everyday dears are slaughtered in the US for pleasure as is the bear far too many to list here. In closing, when a country shows they truly care about their environment, ecology, and way of life it will over flow to it's animal population. Thank you
eli, USA--wDC
01/08/2017 22:49
Well, we've sent Greenpeace over before and they threw them in jail for a few weeks with promises of more years to come if they didn't go away. So please petition your government. I understand that's difficult with Joseph Jr. in charge now but you need to try. Set up a donation network and keep those corruptibles away from the purse strings. I'd pray for you but I'm a atheist however I will ask Mother Earth if she can somehow intervene. There's a lot of methane coming out of the ground right now... maybe you could convince the guy running Gazprom that it is more profitable to get the methane than it is to give logging rights to thieves and rapists. Luckily he's the same guy that will be looking for your votes soon. Good luck my heart is with you. We had the same problem here in BC Canada in the 1970's and we won so go for it.
Erik Bosma, Mission, BC Canada
30/03/2017 04:34
This is so heartbreaking but thank you for sharing this information. I agree with Matthew, where humans have interfered with nature, we absolutely have the responsibility to intervene and help nature.
Pamela Tetarenko, League City, USA
28/03/2017 20:34
They need to be helped when scientists notice abnormal environmental conditions. Man is causing this abrupt changes, therefore we need to interfere with nature
Matthew, Malta
28/03/2017 01:58

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