Kamchatka brown bear cub. Photo by Ivan
The main threats to Kamchatka brown bears include poaching, overharvest and habitat loss.
Poaching for bears is common and driven by the demand for bear parts in China and other parts of Asia. Estimates for the number of brown bears poached in Kamchatka range from 500-1500 annually. Rampant salmon poaching and increasing commercial fishing are also significantly decreasing the supply of a main food source for brown bears. Local rangers are under-paid and ill equipped to combat the multi-million dollar bear and salmon poaching industry.
Hunting for brown bears is permitted under a quota system, which unfortunately is poorly enforced. Current trophy hunting practices target large dominant male bears, which changes the social dynamics of the bear population, and remove as many as 300 bears a year from the Kamchatka Peninsula. While a potential source of income for conservation, trophy hunting is largely uncontrolled, and most profits leave the region. Local hunters also often target bears as a source of meat for dog food or as a recreational hunting species.
Unmonitored oil, gas and mineral exploration and development are also increasingly threatening wildlife habitat on Kamchatka. Moreover, exploitation of Kamchatka’s mineral resources is allowing poachers to access previously inaccessible areas of the peninsula, leaving in their wake streams devoid of salmon and therefore bears as well.
Finally, protected areas, which encompass a significant portion of bear habitat, are poorly funded and under increasing pressure from hunting, poaching and uncontrolled tourism.