MOSCOW – The cruel practice of hunting sleeping bears as they hibernate was banned in Russia, but there are doubts as to whether it will make a difference to the thousands of cubs orphaned by the hunts each year.
Despite being a national emblem, many bear cubs end up in sanctuaries or, far worse, in circuses or the hands of street photographers, because of the so-called winter den hunt, a practice that involves sleeping bears being woken from hibernation by hunters.
Amateur footage taken by hunters shows bears emerging dazed and confused from their dens before being shot at point-blank range.
Inside the dens, cubs are often left behind, unable to survive the Russian winter alone.
What was once a necessity is now a leisure activity for Russia's new rich, with companies charging more than $8,100 to kill a bear. One online video boasts the added attraction of killing a bear from a tank.