Saving brown bears in Russia

Around the world, safe wild places for bears are disappearing. Mankind is destroying bear habitat at an alarming rate and bears are being hunted all over the world.

IFAW’s Bear Rescue Center in Russia has successfully returned more than 200 bears to the wild.

Working out of Bubonitsy, Russia, this groundbreaking project has become a world leader in bear rehabilitation, and we have shared its successful techniques with bear rehabilitation projects around the world.

Hunting brown bears

For years in Russia, wealthy trophy hunters would pay US$2,000 each to participate in a ‘winter den hunt’ of brown bears. Dogs would rouse bears from hibernation and hunters would shoot them as they emerged from their dens.

If the bear was female, then newborn cubs often faced an  sad fate. Some of the cubs would would be left behind to freeze or starve to death and others were given to local villagers as pets or to mobile zoos and circuses. There is also a demand for bear meat in hunting restaurants.

Since 1997, IFAW has supported efforts to rescue and rehabilitate orphaned cubs. We have also been an active campaigner to end the winter den hunt and in 2011, thanks to our efforts, Russia finally passed new ‘Rules of the Hunt’ legislation, which significantly reduces the hunting season for bears and specifically excludes the winter season when bears are hibernating in their dens.

Saving orphaned bear cubs

Our rehabilitation center rescues cubs, some of which are only days old. At IFAW’s Bear Rescue Center, located 350 km northwest of Moscow, bears are bottle-fed and cared for. When they are old enough, they are released into a large natural enclosure where they are able to learn about the forest in a safe environment. And then when bears are old enough and acclimatized, they are released to the wild in proximity to where they were found.

We helped build a new shelter next to the forest for the bears with a separate observation room. In addition, we funded the drilling of a well for drinking water, built a den house for the bear cubs and purchased fodder, medicine and other supplies.