Videos of a zombie-like man in a hospital bed emerged out of Russia early this morning. Reports indicate that the man was paralyzed by a brown bear, cached in a den and left there for a month. As if those details aren’t dramatic enough, the man survived by drinking his own urine until being discovered by a pair of persistent dogs.
“A group of local hunters found Alexander after their dogs refused to leave the area of the den,” according to one report.
The man identified as Alexander has a laundry list of ailments, including a broken spine, emaciation and rotting tissue. His Hugh Glass-esque survival has been described as miraculous by doctors, but even with divine intervention, this seems too fantastical to be true.
For starters, the sources circulating the story are less than dependable. The Siberian Times was first on the beat, but they’ve been described as “not a reliable source” by watchdog Doubtful News. The site, which was founded in 2012, has a history of exaggerated coverage when it comes to washed up sea monsters, ultra-rare diseases and amazing animal feats.
Daily Mail brought the story mainstream by regurgitating details from The Siberian Times. Their writeup on Alexander is sandwiched between articles about actresses in bikinis and athletes getting divorced. The tabloid isn’t exactly a beacon of factual reporting.
Besides the sketchy sourcing, some of the minutiae of this story throws up red flags. First off, the caching behavior described doesn’t align with what the literature says. According to different journals, bears will occasionally cache food, but it’s often buried, closely guarded and consumed within a few days.
Secondly, surviving on urine isn’t possible. Experts say that though urine is 95% water, one can only survive on it for a period of days, not weeks. At that point, renal meltdown will kill you.
“After several days, your urine will become highly concentrated with dangerous waste products, and drinking it can cause symptoms similar to those brought on by total kidney failure,” Chris Wilson wrote in a 2008 Slate article.
As for the convincing photos and videos of the malnourished man, it’s difficult to pin down their origin. A reverse Google image search didn’t yield any results, and the website credited for the pictures by The Siberian Times doesn’t seem to exist. It’s another major knock for the legitimacy of this story.
Although there are dozens of bear attacks each year, this doesn’t appear to be one of them. The flimsy sourcing, outlandish details and unattributed videos are too overwhelming to ignore. Until someone like CNN or Fox corroborates these reports, I’ll file this away as a real case of fake news out of Russia.
Feature image via The Siberian Times.