Photographer: Vyacheslav Zametnya
Text: Vyacheslav Zametnya
Translator: Ekaterina Kurova
From Vyacheslav Zametnya’s diary:
July 13, 2014
“Long before my departure to Kamchatka and Paramushir Island, I have read many reports about a high population of bears in the Far East and set a goal to meet the master of these wild lands and take its pictures.
Local fishermen half-jokingly told us that Kurile bears are peaceful, as long as you do not elbow them when you are fishing at the river. While all of the advice about “saving recipes” when meeting an enraged bear usually ended by one statement: there is no panacea to protect yourself from this animal.
After coming to the island I found out from a wildlife photographer that all of the bears are in the depth of the island keeping to a vegetarian diet, but as soon as pink salmon starts its spawning season, bears come out to the mouths of rivers.
Our research team was well located in the Shelikhov bay, near the mouth of the river Shelikhovka which is filled with trout. After a couple of days first fish shoals of pink salmon on their way to spawn started appearing in the sea of Okhotsk. For miles and miles here was no one around, apart from wild animals.
A fox appeared on the first day of our stay, and it constantly kept trying to steal our fish. On the contrary, bears did not rush to show up. That is why I have decided to explore the area and check the river. On my way everything was trampled; here and there grass was gnawed and flatten by bears. It was slightly creepy to walk around these places alone. Only a couple of days after my raids outside of our camp we have started to find fresh piles of bear excrements, huge bear traces and rumpled tousle of filipendula right on the territory of the camp. No one walked around the camp alone anymore.
Once, when the weather in the sea was non-operating for biologists, menfolk have decided to see an abandoned Japanese military aerodrome in the depth of the island. A premonition of an upcoming encounter with a bear was strong, and we took a gun with us.
At the aerodrome I lagged behind because from time to time local birds attracted my attention, but then I saw my friends that stopped in the bushes and a she-bear with its three cubs just behind those bushes.
As soon as I came out into the open, the bear noticed us. The guys have started to worry because the gun was loaded only with signal cartridge, and nobody wanted to shoot the bear. Tension increased and the bear felt it; the mother has gathered her cubs around, gave us a short growl and disappeared in the tousle of filipendula. Keeping a couple of pictures of animals we have made as a souvenir, we ended up leaving an abandoned airport where we only found one rusted and dilapidated airplane wing and overgrowing asphalt”.