The brown bears of northern Iran hibernate for a few months during winter, so they need to spend until the end of fall accumulating a store of body fat before they retire into hollows and caves to sleep. Orchards and vineyards are therefore extremely popular with these bears, as they can find a diverse menu of delicious foods with high energy and sugar content. After mid-summer each year, when fruits are ripe and fully grown, bears head into the valleys to find the best gardens and vineyards to pick their share, which they do mostly at night. Obviously, that makes people unhappy – or to be more precise, angry.
When a brown bear comes into an apple orchard, for example, it has to climb up into the trees. The more slender branches of the trees cannot tolerate the bear’s heavy weight and ultimately they will splinter or break. So, when the bear leaves the area, villagers wake up to find that not only has part of their produce been consumed, but the branches of their precious trees are broken as well. Wild pigs also follow the bears to feed on leftover apples scattered on the ground.
Currently, there are no efforts to reduce conflict between humans and bears in Iran, a problem that needs special attention from conservation agencies. The film and images shown here were taken by the project crew in northern Iran and illustrate a typical case of human–bear conflict.