During the 1996 season we saw very little evidence of poaching, probably due to the high salmon run which provided income for the local people of Kamchatka. This year, with fewer salmon in the rivers, some of these local people resorted to poaching bears for much needed income. Our plane allowed us to monitor large areas where poachers would otherwise have gone undetected.
In early September, as I, Charlie, was flying to the coast for firewood, I saw a huge track vehicle - so powerful that it could smash through pine bush and alder as it climbed a steep mountain-side. Not far from them I found a sloping stretch of smooth tundra where I could land and leave Igor, who had joined me, to monitor their intentions. When I picked him up later that evening, he reported that they seemed to be hunting both bear and snow sheep within the sanctuary.
We reported this activity to officials in Petropavlovsk which resulted in their apprehension and the levying of a huge fine for the damage done by their vehicle to the land. I also drew official attention to the poaching at Kurilskoye Lake after I almost walked into a poacher's camp and saw a snared bear roaring in pain. Everyone we talked to realized something was wrong this year with so many of the lake's gentle bears were now running away in terror. Just before leaving Kamchatka I was thanked profusely for my reporting and initiated a miraculous chain of events which gave me confidence that the poacher's activities would soon be stopped.