A state of emergency has been declared in Novaya Zemlya, after more than 50 polar bears invaded the group of islands north of Russia.
Now that climate change has caused the Arctic sea ice to shrink back, polar bears are spending more time hunting for food on land, putting them and humans at a greater risk of encountering each other.
One such meeting ground is the town of Belushya Guba, which has seen 52 polar bears in the town and surrounding area, with roughly 10 constantly roaming around the settlement.
Locals have been “chased” by the polar bears, and many of the thousands of residents are now “afraid to go outside”, the Siberian Times reports.
“Parents are wary of letting children go to school and kindergarten,” deputy head of the local administration, Aleksandr Minayev, said in a press release seen by the BBC. “There are cases of aggressive behaviour of wild animals, such as attacks on people and entering into residential and office buildings.”
Too scared to venture outside, locals’ daily life has been thrown into “turmoil” by the animals, according to the administration. Residents have captured footage of the polar bears searching for food at an uncomfortably close distance.
Now the authorities are trying to deal with the polar bears in a way that doesn’t endanger the local population or the animals. Hunting polar bears is banned in Russia, and the country’s nature conservancy agency, Rosprirodnadzor, has refused to grant licenses to shoot the animals.
Unfortunately, the bears have reportedly lost their fear of police patrols trying to scare them off, making the task more difficult. The bears are becoming more brazen, with footage from locals showing them walking close to buildings and even rummaging through apartment blocks.
Rosprirodnadzor has dispatched a team to sedate, catch, and move the bears away from the area. In the meantime, the local authorities are urging caution from residents.
“We have introduced a state of emergency in the settlements for an unlimited time,” the head of the local community, Zhigansha Musin, said in a statement.
“[Rosprirodnadzor] will catch the bears. The predators will be put to sleep and taken out of the settlement.
“We will not shoot them.”
The bears will be moved after specialists fly to the town on Tuesday.
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