A somewhat unbelievable news story has been published by the reliably sensational Siberian Times this week claiming that a man has been rescued after a brown bear mauled him and dragged him to its den to save for food. Images of the man referred to only as “Alexander” show him to be clearly emaciated and suffering from several open and gangrenous wounds, although some are beginning to doubt the veracity of the bear story. What exactly happened to Alexander?
According to the Siberian Times, the wounded and starving man was found inside a bear den in a remote area of Tuva, a mountainous region of southern Russia which borders Mongolia. Reports state that local bear hunters became curious when their dogs refused to leave the area of what appeared to be an empty den, and upon closer inspection found the nearly dead man inside.
The man was able to give his first name and allegedly claimed he was able to remain alive by drinking his own urine for over a month after being mauled by a bear and dragged into the den where we was presumably stored for food. News reports now circulating the more tabloidy corners of the internet say the man is being treated in a local hospital for a broken spine, gangrene, and severe malnourishment and dehydration.
The Siberian Times adds, however, that a spokesperson at the health ministry in Tuva states that they “cannot confirm the case happened in Tuva,” adding the incident “was not registered by the Ministry of Health, the Emergencies Ministry or any other official body (in the region).” While not an outright denial that the incident occurred, the spokesperson instead suggests it likely happened outside of Tuva. Other outlets report that these types of Siberian survival stories pop up from time to time in Russian media with slight variations, but almost always feature a man named "Alexander" for some reason.
Do bears actually save prey in this way? Could a human with such injuries survive on urine alone for a month? It’s doubtful. Without verification of the claims in these Russian newspapers, this story remains another bear-related survival oddity for now.