Bears to settle down on desert North Kuril Island

The northernmost of the Kuril Islands, the desert Shumshu Island, separated from the Kamchatka Peninsula by a fairly large strait, is again inhabited by bears. Hunting experts have discovered a family of brown bears on the swampy island, reported on Tuesday the hunt resources department of the Sakhalin region (Russia's only island region comprises the Island of Sakhalin and the Kurils).

They believe that the bears spent last winter on Shumshu, for bear cubs have been spotted together with adults. The animals are unlikely to have migrated from neighboring Kamchatka, for they would not have been able to cross the broad First Kuril Strait. However, they are quite able to cross the 2-km wide Second Kuril Strait, which separates Shumshu from the much bigger island of Paramushir situated to the south.

There is a well-known cemetery of Japanese tanks of World War II on the island. Last bears were exterminated there in the 1950s. But now, when settled population has moved to Paramushir or the continent and the island is inhabited only by frontier guards and lighthouse keepers, it offers a happy hunting ground for bears. (Under the Russian-Japanese treaty of 1875 Russia ceded all the Kurils to Japan in exchange for recognition of Sakhalin as Russian territory. Japan owned the Kurils till the end of World War II, when Soviet landing forces drove the Japanese from the islands. In 1946 all the Kurils were officially included in the Sakhalin region of the Soviet Union.) Sakhalin and the Kurils have the total of about 4,000 bears. This year it is allowed to shoot 200 bears, but this is unlikely to be applied to the new settlers of Shumshu, who have cubs.

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