MOSCOW - Russia's Far Eastern region of Yakutia is to resort to shooting dead hungry and aggressive wild bears who have become a major danger for humans after floods destroyed their favourite food of berries, an official said Thursday.
"There have been six cases of bear attacks on homes in the past month" in one particularly affected town of Srednekolymsk, on the Kolyma river, said head of the region's hunting department Nikolai Smetanin.
"They break in, empty the refrigerators," he told AFP.
"One bear climbed into a boat of a family that was picking berries. Other bears scavenge at cemeteries."
The bears in the region usually spend the summer months gorging on blueberries, cranberries and lingoberries, but these supplies have shrunk this year because of river flooding in the region, he said.
"All the berries in the river valleys have been destroyed, bears have nothing to eat," he said.
"It's a dispiriting cataclysm."
Residents have pleaded with officials to do something, so authorities decided to allow shooting the aggressive bears, he said.
"People will have to call hunters" in case of a threatening situation, he said.
Bear attacks on humans are highly unusual, but residents in bear-populated regions of the Russian Far East keep a wary eye on the berry crop every year, knowing that a lack of the fruit makes the bears hungry and more likely to attack humans.
Yakutia, a vast sparsely populated northeastern region covered with forests and tundra, is a major source of pelts for the fur industry, but locals do not normally hunt bears, he said.
"We respect the bear, we treat it like it's another hunter. There won't be extermination of all bears."
Russia's Far East has been hit with major floods this month after record rains swelled local rivers, and have affected over 50,000 people with Yakutia one of the areas worst hit.