Russian octogenarian survives fight with hungry bear

The Guardian, MOSCOW

Sat, Nov 02, 2013 - Page 7

An octogenarian versus a hungry Russian bear. It was a confrontation that could have ended seemingly only one way and yet shepherd Yusuf Alchagirov was sitting upright in bed this week and happily munching on the three traditional pies that his family had baked in celebration of his survival.

The bear approached Alchagirov, 80, in a raspberry field in the southern Russian region of Kabardino-Balkaria last week, but despite his age, Alchagirov showered kicks and headbutts on the animal, and managed to knock it off balance.

The bear, apparently irritated by the feisty shepherd, tossed him off a cliff and sauntered away, Alchagirov said in an interview on local television. He was hospitalized with bruises, bite wounds and four broken ribs, but was spared a mauling, and released within a few days. It is not known whether the bear suffered any lasting injuries.

“I got off easy. It would have killed me if I’d chickened out,” Alchagirov said.

Bears attack humans only when they are provoked or hungry, Russian experts say.

Over the autumn, there have been a number of reports of hungry bears approaching villages in the east of the country, after floods destroyed many of their normal sources of food.

In the region of Yakutia, near Russia’s eastern coast, one town witnessed six bear incursions in a month, and local authorities reported hungry animals breaking into people’s houses and emptying their fridges.

The bears became such a nuisance that a program was put in place to shoot them.

In the most recent case, locals believed the bear was probably only playing with Alchagirov, the local media said, and thus were not planning to track down the animal.