Authorities on Sakhalin Island last week said 83 bears had to be shot dead because they were hostile. That figure is nearly three times higher than last year.
“This has never happened before,” a forestry worker told Agence France-Presse, asking not to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media.
“There are not enough fish, berries, nuts,” he said, adding that overfishing of salmon was partly to blame.
“There should not have been any fishing nets installed at all this summer, there are so little fish, but they installed them anyway,” he said.
Bears that enter villages in search of food have eaten dogs and one bit a man’s hand.
“At this time of year bears should be balls of fat, but these animals have almost no fat at all,” the employee said.
A hunter and a fisherman died from bear attacks in September, the regional forest ministry official Sergei Prokhorenko told local media.
The animals have also attacked cattle and one family found a bear digging up potatoes from their vegetable garden in late September, local media reported.
The forestry worker said emergency services were going to villages to look for aggressive animals.
He said he expected the crisis to continue until November, when malnourished bears usually freeze to death while others go into hibernation.
Sakhalin Environment Watch, a non-government organisation, has long warned that overfishing and poaching are leaving the island’s rivers empty of fish.
Last week the group said this year’s fishing season was a “record flop” following overfishing in previous years.
Sakhalin is a large forest-covered island off the east coast of Russia that lies north of Japan between the Okhotsk Sea and the Sea of Japan.
Source: Agence France-Presse