With the Olympics, I’ve been thinking a lot about Russia. Specifically, I was marveling about the vast number of Canadians that I meet who have a bear story. I was trying to imagine what other populations are similar (and how could I visit)? Finland, Sweden and Russia came to mind.
The Guardian had a story about Yusuf Alchagirov, an 80 year old Russian who managed to fend off a bear. He repeatedly kicked and headbutted the bear, who got irritated enough with Alchagirov that he threw the man from a cliff to be done with him.
A few things caught my eye about this story, but one that stands out is Alchagirov’s ability to read the bear. The persistence in this attack is noteworthy. The man reports needing to use repeated headbutts, not just one.
Many people have heard that they should ‘play dead’ if attacked by a bear. This move may come in handy if you accidentally surprise a bear, or made him feel frightened in some way. A passive display might calm the situation.
However, in rare circumstances a bear will mount a predatory attack on a human. The motivation in these cases usually doesn’t take much detective work. The bear is hungry enough to take a chance on an alternative food source. Apparently there had been widespread flooding in Russia that has damaged the food supply of the bears. They need to look outside of their standard fare.
Notice the quote in the article from Alchagirov, “I got off easy. It would have killed me if I’d chickened out.” He is an experienced outdoors man, a shepherd, and was able to correctly identify the predatory intentions of the bear. In his flurry of headbutts, Alchagirov showed the bear that he was more trouble than the meal was worth.
So that explains a little about when, but a question remains: How to headbutt a bear? That I have a harder time picturing.
I need to get myself to the Kabardino-Balkaria region of Russia so that I can hear Alchagirov’s bear story first hand.
Thank you to Denise Bukowski, my agent, and Sarah Murphy, my editor, for sending me this bear story.