Russian islands declare emergency after mass invasion of polar bears

Sergio Conner
February 11, 2019

The state of emergency was declared February 9 due to the "mass invasion of polar bears in residential areas", said Alexander Minayev, deputy head of the Novaya Zemlya administration, in a statement.

Musin's deputy Alexander Minayev told regional authorities that some of the invading polar bears had attacked people, Agence France Presse reported on Saturday.

"I have been in Novaya Zemlya since 1983, but there has never been so many polar bears in the vicinity", local leader Zhigansha Musin told the news agency.

WWF Russia, meanwhile, warned that the effects of climate change that have driven the polar bears to interact with the human population will also affect tigers and reindeer in Siberia and the Russian Far East.

"Polar bears are reliant on seals for food and seals rely on sea ice".

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Russian Federation classes polar bears as an endangered species and shooting them is prohibited by law.

The worrying migration of bears began late a year ago when the animals started to flock to the settlements of Novaya Zemlya en masse, seeking food at local dumps and harassing residents and their pets.

Since December, those living around the area's largest settlement-Belushya Guba, which has a population of about 2,500-have reported seeing at least 52 polar bears.

The government made a decision to send specialists on the islands after officials in the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, with a population of about 3,000 people, sought help. They are frightened to leave homes and their daily routines are broken. An Instagram user uploaded photos and a video of the hungry bears. At the same time, it was said that polar bears do not show any reaction in response to people's attempts to scare them off. People try to use noise signals, patrol vehicles and dogs to scare the bears away, although to no avail. A specialist group will be deployed to figure out how best to remove the bears.

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