Experts deployed to remove dozens of hungry bears besieging Novaya Zemlya, Russia.
Novaya Zemlya, located off Russia’s northeastern arctic coast, has been swarmed by dozens of polar bears since December. The region’s largest settlement, Belushya Guba, with a population of about 2,500 people, has reported more than 50 sightings.
Once a site of Soviet nuclear tests, today, the barren landscape is under siege – from dozens of polar bears.
Russian environmental authorities have deployed a team of specialists to assess the situation. “There’s never been such a mass invasion of polar bears,” said Zhigansha Musin, the head of the local administration. “They have literally been chasing people.”
According to state news agency TASS, local administrator Alexander Minayev said bears had attacked people and entered buildings. A state of emergency was announced on Saturday, with up to 10 polar bears reportedly on the settlement’s territory at any given time.
“People are scared. They are frightened to leave homes, and their daily routines are broken,” Minayev said. “Parents are afraid to let the children go to school or kindergarten.”
Footage shows the polar bears feeding on rubbish at a local dump. Attempts to scare off the polar bears using car horns and dogs have all failed, the TASS news agency said.
Polar bears are increasingly coming into contact with humans as climate change reduces their sea-ice habitats, forcing them on land for longer periods of time.
Russia classes polar bears as an endangered species and shooting them is prohibited by law. Officials warn, however, that a cull may be necessary to ensure the safety of the local population, if attempts to remove the animals fail.