Lack of food means bears cannot hibernate, and die of starvation and cold, with logging blamed for the lack of nuts and acorns.
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.'
Rescue effort underway to provide emergency feeding sites for the helpless animals, with the wild boar population also in trouble.
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