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Kamchatka >Kamchatka's Bears
The peninsula today has over 10,000 of this powerful mammal species. The average Kamchatka bear today weighs 150 to 200 kilograms (360-480 pounds), 400-kilo (950-pound) bears are pretty rare, and the 600-kilo (1500-pound) giants exist pretty much exclusively in the local hunters' tales. The Kamchatka bear is a mild-tempered beast. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that he does not like meat, preferring a fish-rich diet instead.
The main food of the Master of Kamchatka is and has always been salmon: it is the bear's main source of fat deposits that assure his survival through the long winter. Truth be told, after spending the winter in his den, the bear is ready to eat whatever he can find. Luckily, he is never a real threat to humans or other large mammals. The bear will eat an occasional prairie dog because he can dig them out right from their winter holes. It seems incredible, but during the months before Kamchatka's rivers fill with salmon, the large carnivore becomes a full-fledged vegetarian. In the beginning of summer the coastal tundra and the berry-rich fields become the scene of an idyllic picture: here you can see herds of peacefully grazing, alas, not yet domesticated bears.
Kamchatka's bears are pragmatists and cowards. They are never hungry and their lives are, fortunately, not as full of hardship as the lives of, say, the bears of the Siberian taiga. Most of Kamchatka's bears, when faced with even the remotest threat, prefer to flee. Of course, a bear is a bear: if nine out of ten bears will prove "civilized," there is always a chance to come across one brave beast who does not like you. In this situation you may not even have time to get scared, much less run or shoot...
So, if you are seriously considering seeking an encounter with a Kamchatka bear, forget the fairy tale image of a clumsy simpleton. The bear is a beast of colossal strength and endurance, swift reaction, and fantastic muscular coordination. A Kamchatka bear can chew through any bone, he can turn huge boulders with his claws, he can climb up an almost vertical slope, and he can sit in freezing water for several hours. He is an excellent swimmer; on dry land he can run short distances fast enough to catch up with a horse. He cannot, however, sprint for a long time, but he is a superb walker: in 24 hours he can cover a distance of over 100 kilometers (60 miles). Climbing trees is, perhaps, the only thing this bear is not capable of.
Nevertheless, hundreds of dedicated tourists can watch for hours as the bears are catching salmon. Every bear has his own approach: some spot the fish from the bank, some stand motionless among the rocks and wait for hours for the salmon to come to them. Yet others noisily chase the fish around in the river shallows. Sometimes a bear can "feel" for his prey in the mud and under some large tree stumps. And there are those clever beasts that, without any pangs of consciousness, steal salmon right out of the traps that Kamchatka's scientists put out to keep up with salmon populations.