Russian town issues etiquette tips on bear encounters

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Officials in a remote Russian city have drawn up a list of practical tips for locals on how to survive encounters with bears, after growing numbers have wandered into the streets in search of food.

The officials in the city of Syktyvkar in the northern Komi republic drew up the guidelines, to be distributed on Wednesday, after several bears were spotted in the city, starving after a heatwave shrivelled nuts and berries.

The guide, a copy of which was acquired by AFP, warns that residents should stay calm and stand still if they meet a bear. "Speak to the bear in a firm voice" and "Don't turn your back on it," it adds.

In the worst-case scenario, if the bear attacks, the victim should behave aggressively, the guide says. "Shout angrily at it and look it straight in the eyes," it advises.

"Bears have started coming into residential areas more and more often," the city authorities of Komi's regional capital of Syktyvkar said in a statement. "Any encounter with a bear is unsafe for humans, so our task is to do all we can to prevent accidents."

In September, a bear mauled a 25-year-old man in a central street of the city, wounding him in the neck before he managed to flee, police said.

"Three or four civilian encounters with brown bears have been registered," the deputy head of the hunting department in the regional agriculture ministry, Alexander Arkhipenko, told AFP.

Police shot one bear after it wounded a man close to an infants' school in a city suburb, Arkhipenko said. Officials have asked police to patrol streets close to wooded areas in the evenings.

Syktyvkar is the regional capital of the remote Komi region in northwest Russia. Its population is just over 230,000.

© 2010 AFP

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