A state of emergency has been declared in an area of Russia as dozens of polar bears have appeared searching for food.
The animals reportedly began gathering in the remote Russian archipelago of Novaya Zemlya, which is home to around 3000 people, around the turn of the new year, when they invaded residential buildings and offices.
According to Sky News, the deputy head of Novaya Zemlya, Alexander Minayev, explained at least 52 polar bears had been spotted near the archipelago’s main settlement of Belushya Guba since December, with between six and 10 constantly present in the territory.
TASS reports the bears have attacked people, but the Russian environmental watchdog has refused to issue licenses allowing them to be shot.
The creatures are considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, so officials are using different methods in an effort to drive the polar bears away from the inhabited areas.
However, so far signals, dogs and patrol cars have all failed in scaring away the bears. The BBC report officials may have to resort to a cull if other techniques fail.
Check out how one bear invaded a building here:
Minayev said the decision to declare a state of emergency was taken to ‘prevent emergencies and ensure fire safety’.
Sky News report Minayev as saying in a statement:
The emergency situation was caused by the mass invasion of polar bears in residential areas.
Residents, schools and kindergartens are submitting numerous oral and written complaints demanding to ensure safety in the settlement. The people are scared.
They are frightened to leave homes and their daily routines are broken. Parents are afraid to let the children go to school or kindergarten.
Zhigansha Musin, the head of the local administration, said the emergency would be upheld until the safety of residents could be assured.
I have been in Novaya Zemlya since 1983, but there has never been so many polar bears in the vicinity. I recall that over five polar bears are in the [military] garrison chasing people and entering residential buildings.
However, if a cull is banned, we will have to embark on a longer and less safe way for local residents.
Ilya Mordvintsev, a lead researcher at the Severtsev Institute of Ecology and Evolution, told TASS the appearance of the polar bears is down to the seasonal migration of the animals.
The expert explained the creatures could have ignored the archipelago if it weren’t for availability of food in the region, saying:
Compared to previous years, they come ashore in the southern part of the archipelago, where the ice is changing. They migrate through Novaya Zemlya heading north, where the ice is solid.
It is migration from the south to the north. They are staying in that location [near Belushya Guba] because there is some alternative food. They could have gone past but for the food. But as there are bins with edible waste, they stop to flock.
Hopefully, the bears will manage to stay fed without causing further disruption or harm to residents in the area.
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to [email protected]