Human injuries and fatalities caused by brown bears in Russia, 1932-2017

17 November 2019

Kudrenko, Svitlana; Ordiz, Andres; Barysheva, Svetlana; Baskin, Leonid; Swenson, Jon

We compiled, summarized, and reviewed 338 cases of people killed or injured by brown bears from 1932 to 2017 in Russia, home of about half of the world´s brown bears. During the Soviet period, 1932-1990, hunters and outdoor workers were injured/killed by bears more frequently than people engaged in other activities, 28% and 19% among all incidents, respectively. However, after 1991, people who gathered wild resources, hiked, or were within human settlements were most affected (22%, 16%, and 15%, respectively). Single bears were involved in most of the incidents before and after 1991 (76 % and 74% of the cases, respectively). In 1991-2017, the post-Soviet period, when data availability was better, bear-caused injuries and fatalities (264 records) occurred more often on the Russian Pacific Coast (111 incidents) and in Siberia (109 incidents) than in European Russia (44 incidents), where human encroachment in bear habitat is higher. During the same period, the percentages of fatalities were not significantly different among the areas; 39% in European Russia, 49% in Siberia, and 50% on the Pacific Coast. Casualties occurred mainly during daytime and especially in summer and autumn. In 182 incidents with known probable causes, bears most frequently attacked when provoked or disturbed (38%) and surprised (21%), but 18% of the incidents seemed to reflect bear predatory behavior. Hence, we encourage researchers and wildlife managers to develop educational programs on large carnivore biology and behavior and to better manage human activities in bear country in order to minimize human-bear conflicts in Russia and elsewhere.