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Wednesday, 19 June, 2002, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Siberia in fear of fire-fleeing bears
Russian bear
The fires have made the bears aggressive
Bears in Siberia are posing a growing risk to humans as raging forest fires force them to flee their natural habitat.

Hungry and increasingly aggressive, some are reported to be approaching local people.

Scared farmers shot two animals after about 50 congregated outside a reindeer farm in the Yakutia region.

Concerned authorities have stopped children returning from boarding school to spend the summer holidays with their parents.

Elsewhere in Siberia, two men were wounded by bears fleeing the fires.

Threatened wildlife

Correspondents say the fires, which have been raging in Siberia since early this year, have made the bears angry.

Bears can weigh up to 780 kg (1,716 pounds) and have large appetites to satisfy.

Almost 200 fires are still ablaze in the country. An estimated 7,000 hectares of forest was destroyed on Tuesday alone.

Siberia's wildlife has already been battered by extreme weather conditions.

Just a year ago, the Yakutia region was suffering Russia's worst floods in a century. This winter, plunging temperatures threatened to decrease the already dwindling numbers of rare Siberian tigers.

Experts believe there are no more than 400 of the creatures left in the wild.

See also:

17 May 02 | Media reports
28 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
21 May 01 | Europe
21 May 01 | Europe
09 May 01 | Media reports
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