August 24, 2012
Day 2. Bears, Bears Everywhere – Not One to Fear
Kurile Lake is famous not only for its surrounding scenery and nearby volcanos, but also for the local demographic situation with bears – that demographic being: there are loads of them!
They roam around camps either on their own or as family units – moms and their little ones. The camp we were in had a perimeter fence all around it separating the camp from the surrounding bear-inhabited wilds. The fence is just a little bit electrified – enough just to give the big furry mammals a bit of a scare, nothing more – so the bears generally won’t fancy breaking through said fence with all their weight and might. As we were told, bears touch unknown objects with their noses, and a light electric shock is enough to correct bears’ “auto-pilot”. They take no notice of the folks inside the fence and carry on with their lives undisturbed, even grazing just a few meters from the barrier.
We observed how outside the perimeter everything was relatively peaceful – all the bears mulling about appeared to be in good, calm spirits… until one elder-bear started to pester a younger and weaker member of the sleuth – with the result that the latter, having had enough of this harassment, decided to go for flight as opposed to fight – via (understandably) the shortest route possible, which happened to be right across our camp. It was as if he’d forgotten about the fence, charging at it at full speed. Poor thing. He was soon reminded about it, that was for sure L. He was ok though, just a little startled!
// According to an old folk tale, “A hippo has poor eyesight, but given his size – it’s hardly a problem for him.” :)
Not long after arriving, upon seeing the first bear everyone of course rushed to take some snaps. But after just a day everyone lost all interest after getting used to them and quit all the snapping. Quite a change. I think it was Dostoyevsky who said, “We can get used to anything.” Even Kamchatka bears :)
Bears lined much of the banks of Kurile Lake – there to catch the fish. Along one short stretch we observed a whole nine (!) of them.
A reasonable question about the bears would be “are they dangerous?” The answer? Well, if you don’t invite trouble by provoking them in any way, and observe the rule NEVER to feed them, you should be ok. A full (the opposite of hungry) Kamchatka bear (the Ozernaya river is the biggest breeding ground in the world for blueback salmon) is a lazy creature, scares easily, and if met prefers to get out of the way before you do. However, there will always be exceptions: nearby stands a monument to the famous Japanese photographer Michio Hoshino. A sad tale.
Kurile Lake also doubles up as a bears’ kindergarten…
The Kurile now has a live webcam installed! If wanting to have a look, remember that Kamchatka is plenty far away from Europe – to get there takes more than eight hours on a plane, so the webcam is best watched either at night or before lunch – if you’re in Europe.
The Kurile Lake area is a wonderful place, but a few issues did arise, which I guess need mentioning to the Kurile recreation center. So, things that need doing/sorting:
- To move the sunset to the other side of the lake – so that the sun doesn’t rise over the lake, but sets there. That would be much prettier.
- To dig a pair of thermal springs, since the water in the lake is too cold. At a minimum, to move the “warm beach” from the other side of the lake nearer to the camp.
- To periodically change the positions of the volcanos. When they’re always in one place it gets kinda boring.
- To give the bears bicycles to ride about on, and also harmonicas. That would be more fun all round.
An amazing place. For me it wasn’t new – the last time I was here was only in 2010. In fact, Kamchatka-2012 in general reminded me a lot of Kamchatka-2010 – it had a similar itinerary of visits and excursions. But that was no bad thing – I love it here, so samey = greaty!
This year in the camp our neighbors were a French camera crew. Using a funny little remote-controlled hot air balloon with a remote-controlled hi-tech camera hanging from it, they were shooting some kind of documentary about the lake. Would love to see the final cut!
And in closing – some more photos.
Bear highway and bear dead-end:
Bear-claw USB sticks!:
Many more real cool pics of bears and views from Kurile Lake can be found on A.B.’s blog, here.