Russian Town Besieged by Polar Bears

Russian officials declared a state of emergency after more than 50 polar bears invaded a remote Arctic island searching for food and chasing residents.

Russian Town Besieged by Polar Bears

Russian authorities have declared a state of emergency after more than 50 polar bears invaded a town. (Photo: USGS)

More than 50 polar bears have descended upon a remote Arctic island, prompting Russian officials to declare a state of emergency.

Residents of the settlement of Belushya Guba have counted at least 52 polar bears in the area scavening for food in trash dumps, harassing people and attempting to enter buildings. The community is on a peninsula on Yuzhny Island, which is part of the Novaya Zemlya arctic archipelago in the southeastern Barents Sea.

The archipelago is part of the old Russian nuclear testing grounds from the Cold War. Residents reportedly are afraid to go outside and their "daily life is in turmoil," said Aleksandr Minayev, a local administration official.

“Parents are wary of letting children go to schools and kindergartens," he said. “There are cases of aggressive behavior of wild animals, such as attacks on people and entering into residential and office buildings.”

The Siberian Times reported the bears are not fearful of humans or deterrents, such as horns or gunshots. Residents face prosecution if they shoot a polar bear, which are protected. The newspaper reported that specialists have been sent to the island to help residents learn to live with the bears and use other methods to deter them.

Polar Bear Numbers

While the exact number is unknown, it's believed that between 20,000 and 25,000 polar bears exist in their Arctic habitat.

That includes the islands in the Arctic Circle, Alaska, Canada, Russia, Greenland and Norway. Male polar bears weigh between 775 and 1,200 pounds; females are about half that size.

A polar bear's diet is comprised primarily of seals. The high-calorie blubber helps the bears survive the harsh conditions. Bears often will still-hunt by laying beside a seal's breathing hole in the ice and then attempt to bite or grab the seal.

It's uncertain why the bears have invaded the settlement. Officials say at least 6-10 bears are roaming the area at any time, with the beasts moving around day and night. Climate change is cited by some.

From the Washington Post:

The animals wreaking havoc on Novaya Zemlya ventured inland on the southern end of the archipelago, where the ice is rapidly thinning, Ilya Mordvintsev, a researcher at the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, told TASS. On their way north, where the ice is thicker, they came across alternative sources of food at Belushya Guba and stopped to feed on the waste.

Check out the video below making the rounds on social media of one polar bear rumbling through a building in Belushya Guba.


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