The bear is the national symbol of Finland and is used everywhere from carved wooden statues in front of houses to concrete bollards outside Helsinki airport.
Viena Karelia, the region surrounding the Russian and Eastern Finnish border, is the most likely place to see bears living in the wild. It is part of the Taiga which stretches all the way to the Urals, a true natural wilderness consisting of deciduous and coniferous forests, pine covered eskers, lakes and mire.
I travelled by canoe on the vast network of interconnecting lakes and by car to the Wild Brown Bear Lodge. From the centre it is a 20 minute hike through the trees to the hides. Here I spent a whole night sitting up waiting for the bears to come over the border in search of salmon. I couldn’t wear anything that smelled such as deodorant or make any sort of sound. The bears have bad eyesight but their other senses are highly acute. When they appeared it was very hard to stifle an excited yelp. A big male approached the hide. The guide told me his name was Valeri, old and half blind and a regular visitor. I later found out that he often travels to the Lodge to scavenge in the bins.