A state of emergency has been declared in the Russian Arctic archipelago of Novaya Zemlya, as locals face a massive “invasion” of polar bears, with over 50 predators seeking food and harassing residents in the urban landscape since several weeks.
“People are fearful, they are afraid to go outside, daily life is in turmoil, parents are wary of letting children to go to schools and kindergartens,” deputy head of the local administration, Aleksandr Minayev, said in a statement.
The town of Belushya Guba seems to be the most affected by the polar bear problem, with at least 52 specimen roaming around the vicinity. A bunch of videos have emerged online showing the bears strolling down the snowy streets, digging through food waste – and even trying to invade homes.
The worrying migration of bears began late last year when the animals started to flock to the settlements of Novaya Zemlya en masse, some videos captured them rummaging through a local dump. This appears to be the worst one the remote Arctic region has endured over the past few decades.
“I’ve been in Novaya Zemlya since 1983, yet I’ve never seen such a massive polar bear invasion,“ head of local administration, Zigansha Musin, said, adding that at least five predators seem to be staying at the village all day long.
While polar bears don’t normally hunt humans, preying on various sea mammals instead, a close encounter with them can result in serious injuries or being mauled to death.
To fend off the beasts, Belushya Guba has already erected some fences and tried to scare the predators off by vehicles and warning shots. Some bears, however, seem to be eager to stay in the town despite all the efforts of humans.
The town ultimately decided to hunt down a few animals – which proved to be easier said than done, since the polar bears are an endangered species protected in Russia.
The administration has asked the national nature protection watchdog for permission to shoot and kill the most rowdy bears, yet the request has been denied. The watchdog, however, is set to dispatch a team of specialists to the troubled village to try and tackle the problem without unnecessary violence.