"If I don't have a warden or two looking after my territory, somebody's bound to start fooling around out here," he says, referring to poachers and military personnel he's run into around Dvukhyurtochnoye Lake. "And if the wardens get laid off, guess what they're going to do then," Rebrikov says, raising his arms in resignation. "The wardens will go after the bears. They have to make a living somehow."
Earlier that day at Rebrikov's camp, a gleeful Russian client posed for pictures clad in a new camouflage suit, holding a high-powered rifle next to his first bear trophy from Kamchatka. "It all happened too fast," he said. "Just after we left camp, my driver suddenly stopped our snow machine and pointed to a bear crossing the slope a hundred yards above us. I jumped off, pulled my rifle out, and kept shooting until I ran out of bullets!"
"You're bad," the hunter's girlfriend scolded as she ran her bejeweled hand through the dead animal's fur. "You killed such a pretty bear!" She straightened and planted a kiss on the hunter's lips. The man knelt by the fallen beast, fiddling with his sunglasses as his personal assistant covered up drops of blood in the snow. What would look better, shades on or off?
A light breeze stirred the bear's silver-tipped mane. His eyes were closed, as if the king of this domain were taking a nap, stretched in the sun to soak up the long-awaited warmth of spring.
"Shass, Aiko, down!" John Paczkowski commands, snapping his fingers and pointing at the ground. His two black-and-white Karelian bear dogs—50-pound (23 kilograms) balls of energy with pointed ears and coiled tails—freeze in mid-run and drop onto their behinds. The husky-like Karelians were originally bred in Finland to help hunters pursue bears. Paczkowski has been using them for personal protection in his bear-capture research. The dogs loyally follow him as he checks snares along bear trails at least twice a day.
Leaving the dogs behind to avoid disturbing a snared bear, Paczkowski, a Canadian biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, walks a little way along the bear trail to the edge of a clearing. Through binoculars he spots a dark shape moving in a grove of birch trees on the other side. "We've got a bear!" he says into a walkie-talkie, giving his colleagues at camp a heads-up to prepare for immobilizing the animal. Then he returns the dogs to camp.
Soon after, as Paczkowski and his three-man capture crew approach the snared bear, an occasional whoosh escapes from the animal's nostrils, but he's calm. This one is a large boar. The wire snare, taut around his outstretched left front paw, is fastened to the base of a thick birch. After readying the dart gun, Paczkowski slowly approaches. His Russian colleague, Ivan Seriodkin, is 1.8 meters (two yards) behind, a loaded shotgun pointing at the ground. Paczkowski aims the dart gun, then lowers it, takes a few more steps around the bear for a better angle and pulls the trigger. The dart hits the boar's left shoulder, delivering five milliliters of Telazol solution. Paczkowski and Seriodkin retreat and wait. Six minutes later the bear is still, and the men get to work.