It's like something out of a bad horror movie: starving bears ravaging a graveyard, pulling up dead human bodies and tearing into their flesh. But in Russia, it's all too real, and scientists believe the bizarre behavior may be related to climate change, according to The Guardian.
Two women in the small village of Vezhnya thought that one corpse-eating bear was a large man in a fur coat. Their screams sent the frightened bear into the woods, but upon closer inspection, they found a horrifying scene: an unearthed body, partially eaten, with its clothes tossed over nearby tombstones.
A devastating rash of wildfires – caused by unusually hot summer weather - destroyed much of the bears' natural sources of food, and other traditional vittles like mushrooms, berries and frogs have disappeared as well. But that's not the only reason these marauding mammals have chosen to rob coffins of human remains.
Masha Vorontsova, Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), says the bears simply got addicted to an easy source of food.
"In Karelia one bear learned how to do it [open a coffin]. He then taught the others," she told The Guardian. "They are pretty quick learners."
Locals say the bears have been scavenging for food in trash cans and gardens, and the only way to get rid of them is to frighten them with a loud sound like a firecracker or gunshot. And in fact, the latter is the main threat to black bears in Russia. While populations are fairly stable, poachers have been killing large numbers of the bears and the Russian government is currently drafting legislation to protect them from hunting.
"The story is horrible,” said Vorontsova. “Nobody wants to think about having a much loved member of their family eaten by a bear."