Inhabitants from a town in an arctic archipelago in north eastern Russia have faced an invasion of dozens of polar bears that are looking for food. A state of emergency has now been declared in the remote settlement of Novaya Zemlya. Authorities are calling it an unprecedented situation.
Polar bears are usually born and brought up living on ice fields. They travel across tens of kilometres in search of seals to eat. However as a result of climate change many of these ice fields are reseeding due to the loss of ice which, in effect creates a loss of habitat for polar bears. These starving animals are then forced to move to land in their hunt for food. The bears then come in contact with human populations as they desperately rummage through their waste and landfills. This is what is happening on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in north eastern Russia. A state of emergency has recently been declared as the situation is becoming increasingly unmanageable.
“They are even getting into apartment blocks”
Since December around fifty polar bears have been visiting the town of Belouchia Gouba, the largest town on the archipelago. The town, which is home to around 3,000 inhabitants, is becoming increasingly concerned. Alexandre Minaïev, the deputy head of the local administration, explained that “some of the animals show aggressive behaviour.” He also notes that the bears are “chasing people and are even entering the entrances of residential buildings.” There are apparently between six to eight bears that live permanently in the vicinity of the village. It has been said that inhabitants are afraid to leave their homes and parents are scared to send their children to school on their own.
Polar bear invasion on Novaya Zemlya as 50 wild animals besiege remote town, and chase people. State of emergency called, locals are told they cannot shoot endangered species scavenging for food at local dump https://t.co/j7nI40QZOK pic.twitter.com/yv3FYu8Nof
— The Siberian Times (@siberian_times) February 10, 2019
Ineffective patrol vehicles and dogs
In Russia it is forbidden to shoot a polar bear as they are classified as an endangered animals. According to the World Wildlife Fund polar bear populations are threatened “by the current and potential loss of their ice field habitats as result of climate change.” It has been predicted that by 2050 polar bear numbers will have decreased by 30%. There are currently between 22,000 to 31,000 polar bears in the world today.
In Novaya Zemlya local authorities are using patrol vehicles and dogs to try and chase the bears away from towns. However these methods don’t seem to scare the bears away. Locals have said that “these measures are not having the desired effect.”
If the security of the town’s inhabitants remain threatened to the same extent, drastic measures could potentially be taken. “In the end killing the animals might be the only measure that could reestablish security for inhabitants.” Currently no decision has been taken on this measure. However the Russian Federal Agency in charge of environment surveillance has decided to send a committee to the archipelago to try and precisely evaluate the state of the situation.