July 22, 2008

Team of Geologists Trapped By Russian Bears

Emergency officials said on Tuesday that at least 30 hungry bears have trapped a group of geologists at their remote survey site in Russia's far east after killing two of their co-workers last week.

A spokesman for the Kamchatka emergency services ministry said the team of geologists on Russia's seismically active Kamchatka peninsula refused to leave their camp after the bears showed up.

"In the interests of safety they didn't come out to work "” the people are scared by the invasion of bears," the spokesman said.

On July 18, a bear killed two geologists.

Kamchatka, nine time zones east of Moscow on the Pacific Ocean, has experienced a remarkable year for either too many bears or not enough fish.

"Either way there is not enough food," the spokesman said.

Every year, rampant fish poaching in the empty tundra of Russia's farthest reaches sends hungry bear populations into populated centers, attracted to the food-rich garbage humans leave behind.

Bad weather has made it impossible to send a helicopter, but an all-terrain vehicle was on its way to the camp, where it would await government approval to shoot the bears.

"It looks like a shoot by the hunters won't take place today as there is still no permission. As soon as we get the document from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky the hunters can get to work," the spokesman said.

Kamchatka, an area twice the size of Great Britain, is home to as many as 16,000 native brown bears, cousins of the American Grizzly. An adult male can weigh 700 kilograms (1,500 lbs) and stand 3 meters (10 feet) tall.