Russian Arctic Islands Sound Emergency Over "Invasion" By Polar Bears

Sergio Conner
February 11, 2019

The northern Russian Arkhangelsk region, which sits north of European Russia and contains the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Berents Sea, is overrun with polar bears, with dozens of the creatures invading human settlements. "Parents are afraid to let their children in the school or in the Kindergarten", said the Governor of the Region.

Teachers have expressed concern over the safety of schoolchildren during the bear invasion.

"I've been on Novaya Zemlya since 1983", he said in an official press release cited by BBC.

Efforts to drive away the wild beasts, including using patrol cars and dogs, failed as the polar bears appeared not scared of those measures.

"The emergency situation was caused by the mass invasion of polar bears in residential areas", it said. "There are constantly 6 to 10 bears inside the settlement".

Extra fences had been installed near kindergartens and special vehicles were being used to take military personnel and employees to work, according to TASS.

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Despite the siege, residents have been warned they face prosecution is they shoot the endangered species.

Though the animals are considered endangered by Russian Federation (the IUCN Red List classifies them as "vulnerable," with a decreasing population), officials said that if non-lethal means fail to drive the bears away, they may be forced to cull the animals, the BBC added.

Russia's Federal Service for Supervision of Nature Management has refused to issue licenses to shoot the most aggressive of the lot.

"As climate change forces polar bears to spend longer time onshore, they come in contact more often with Arctic coastal communities and others working in the Arctic".

"As there are containers with edible waste, stop walking", said a scientist who confirmed that in the area now, as many polar bears as never seen. An expert team will be dispatched to the archipelago to assess the situation and prevent the predators' attacks on humans. They said that if the now deployed measures are unable to drive the bears away, they may need to be culled.

Novaya Zemlya head Zhigansha Musin said it was unusual for so many polar bears to show up near human settlements and the emergency will only be called off once the government was able to determine the area safe and secured.

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