A black bear tilts its head to one side as it gazes toward the camera.
A black bear poses for the camera. (Photo: ThinkStock)

A long, hot summer has made things difficult for Russian black bears near the village of Vezhnya Tchova, writes The Guardian. Natural food sources like mushrooms, berries, fish and frogs have thinned out because of a brutal heat wave. Lacking their usual food sources, bears have resorted to digging up and consuming human corpses from municipal cemeteries, claim local officials.

Bears adapting

Such ghastly scenes have prompted reactionary individuals to call for the extermination of such foul bests that could even consider consuming human corpses in a cemetery. Yet scientists see the matter in a more natural light. Bears are scavengers who are simply searching for sustenance to survive. The Vezhnya Tchova bears are neither more nor less ferocious than bears elsewhere that do not seek out dead human tissue. Extreme circumstances dictate extreme measures, as survival is paramount in nature.

Raiding the giant refrigerator

Vorontsova points out that human bodies buried underground are still within range of a black bear’s smell. Not only that, but keeping corpses beneath the ground shields them from the punishing sunlight. In a way, tombs act like natural refrigerators, preserving tissue that could easily be used to maintain the natural cycle of consumption, rather than leaving it embalmed and wrapped in a tuxedo or a gown. Despite the natural fact, the concept of a deceased loved one’s body being eaten by bears remains difficult for some.

Difficult, but not impossible

Many people feel that such things as “natural burial,” which organizations like The Centre for Natural Burial offer, affirms the sanctity of life. Placing the body into the ground in its natural state facilitates organic recycling in its purest form. If giving back to the soil is considered an act that honors nature, it is stupefying that some people believe black bears consuming human corpses is abhorrent. Both acts give back to nature. Granting respect and protection for the dead is sensible when it comes to vile acts like vandalism, but once people are dead, they aren’t coming back. People who take such Bible verses as John 5:28-29 literally – a verse that refers to people rising from their memorial tombs unto eternal life – take themselves much too seriously. Live now. There’ll be time to serve as life-renewing food later.


The Centre for Natural Burial http://naturalburial.coop/

The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/oct/26/russia-bears-eat-corpses-graveyards

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