Bear Season Complete Disaster In Russia


Published: June - 2005

You have probably heard by now that the spring bear season in Russia was a complete disaster. Seems that on the eve of the spring bear opener, the minister of agriculture, who oversees the equivalent of that country's game department, refused to sign the decree that opens the big game hunting season for all of Russia. The reason for the refusal was that a routine government audit of the Ministry of Agriculture concluded that game surveys conducted by individual hunting regions must be confirmed or re-conducted by the federal government.

The timing of the auditor's finding could not have been worse. The spring bear season was scheduled to open Monday, April 25, and numerous operators, anticipating that the Minister would sign the decree that day, had already received clients over the preceding weekend and had them in the field. Outfitters made a mad scramble to petition government officials to resolve the matter but were hampered by the occurrence of three successive Russian holidays that had government offices closed and key decision makers on vacation for the better part of three weeks. Bear hunters in the field were technically poaching and subject to arrest. Operators finally got the first wave of clients out of the field and back to Petropavlosk, where many of them were stranded because Magadan Air had cancelled its weekly flight when numbers of American hunters cancelled their flights for the second week of the would-be season.

In an effort to salvage the season without federal participation, some operators turned to the governors of the different Russian provinces to have them issue provincial decrees opening the spring bear season in their prospective regions. Three governors did just that, opening hunting in the Kemerovo, Kras- noyarsk and Magadan regions, which was supposedly legal under Russian law. Some operators proceeded to take hunters into the field, as they had hunting licenses and CITES permits that had been issued in anticipation of the federal government's decree to open the big game hunting season.

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