Platform scales have been installed in the South Kamchatka Federal Reserve on the shore of the Kuril Lake. Experts expect to learn how the weight of animals changes from the moment they leave the den to the next winter sleep, how it is influenced by the number of salmon spawning, the fishing success of individuals and abundance of vegetable feeds. This is the first such experiment in specially protected natural areas.
Bears change beyond recognition during the fattening period with the introduction of abundant food. From skinny animals with dull, unrefined hair, they turn into well-fed beauties with thick and shiny fur. Those with good salmon mining skills gain weight faster and better than the others. State inspectors and scientists working on the Kuril Lake each field season have learned to distinguish between bears that annually appear near cordons or have an unusual appearance. Indicators of body mass change of these animals during the waking period will form the basis of long-term monitoring studies.
The VSP4 non-automatic weighbridge is designed for loads of up to 1,000 kilograms. They are set on a path leading to one of the largest spawning grounds of nerka at the mouth of the Khakytsyn River. Before the start of operation of the equipment, the old flooring will be restored and raised to the level of the measuring instrument platform. Bears will be able to walk on their usual route, briefly standing on the scale. The size of the pad (1.5x2 meters) allows it.
«Bears often visit the site of the trail, where scales are now installed. Most of them live near the cordon «Travyanoy» for several years and we know the animals «in person». There’s a photo trap next to the scales. Thus, having specific figures of the mass of each animal passing through them and data on the time of «weighing» from the frame of the automatic camera, we can relate this information and finally answer the most frequently asked by our tourists question: «How much does this bear weigh»? Data collected in spring after the release of bears from the den and in autumn, when they gained the largest amount of fat, will tell you exactly how the weight of the bear changes during the year», - said Liana Varavskaya, the state inspector of the «Kronotsky State Reserve».
Weighing bears while they're awake will be used in the wild for the first time. Moreover, in the past, zoologists and hunters could only weigh the body mass of the largest Kamchatka terrestrial predators after measuring carcasses captured in the hunting grounds. The average body weight of an adult male is reported to be between 350 and 400 kilograms. At the end of the feeding season it may be over 600 kilograms.
«Despite the widespread information about the body mass of Kamchatka bears, these are often just experts` visual assessments. There are a few facts of direct weighing of animals. Now we can get reliable data on the weight of bears in the south of Kamchatka. Animals living on the peninsula are the largest individuals and some of the largest within the world range», - said Sergey Kolchin, a researcher of the «Kronotsky State Reserve» and the Institute of Water and Environmental Problems FEB RAS.
A unique project will be implemented with the support of industrial enterprises of Kamchatka. «Gold of Kamchatka» and «Trans-Siberian Gold «Asacha» included in the structure of Highland Gold are among them. The policy of gold mining companies on the peninsula includes the use of technologies reducing the impact on nature, and financial participation in projects aimed at its conservation.
Brown Bear is one of the main symbols of the peninsula and we are pleased to contribute to the care of the welfare of this species. Now together with the Kronotsky reserve we are developing a joint program that will help environmentalists to implement new advanced projects on accounting and protection of animals and in the development of infrastructure of our specially protected natural areas», - noted in «Gold of Kamchatka».
The project will also be supported by the Association of Fish Industries of the Ozernovsky Region. It participates in every environmental and ecological educational program in the South of Kamchatka. These projects are related to anti-poaching activities, bear research, raising the level of environmental culture of local residents and guests of the peninsula.
We note that the South Kamchatka Federal Reserve is the home to one of the largest protected brown bear groups in the world and the largest in Russia. These animals are an important part of the ecosystem of the Kuril Lake basin and an indicator of its condition, one of the main objects of tourist observation and scientific research.