Published: Mon, February 11, 2019
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Polar bears invade Russian islands

Polar bears invade Russian islands

A town in Russian Federation has had a sudden invasion of more than 50 polar bears, prompting officials to declare a state of emergency.

Since December 52 polar bears have regularly visited the archipelago's main settlement, Belushya Guba, with some displaying "aggressive behaviour". "Parents are afraid to let the children go to school or kindergarten", says the statement. In this photo, polar bear Uslada walks with its five-month-old cub in their enclosure at the St. Petersburg Zoo, April 24, 2014.

The bears had no fear of signals used to scare them off as well as of patrol cars and dogs.

The aggressive bears have entered homes and public buildings in the remote Novaya Zemlya archipelago - home to around 3,000 people - where officials have warned of a "mass invasion".

Although most of the wild animals were no longer wandering near the settlements, around six to ten polar bears still remained in the area.

Novaya Zemlya is also home to a military garrison, where the bears have "literally chased people".

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Ilya Mordvintsev, a lead researcher at the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Moscow, told TASS that the reason so many polar bears had appeared near human settlement was because of the easy availability of food sources detected during their seasonal migration. They are staying in that location [near Belushya Guba] because there is some alternative food.

For protection against the animals were placed in the vicinity of kindergartens, additional fencing, and personnel on Novaya Zemlya stationed Russian air force and air defense troops with special vehicles to work.

Though classified by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as "vulnerable," Russian Federation considers polar bears an endangered species, and bans the hunting of them.

Hunting the bears is banned, and the federal environment agency has refused to issue licences to shoot them. An expert team will be dispatched to the archipelago to assess the situation and prevent the predators' attacks on humans.

As Arctic ice melts, the bears have been spending more time in human settlements looking for food.

Officials said it is hoped that firearms will not be needed to drive the bears away, but they cautioned that culling of the animals can not be ruled out.

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