Polar Bears Searching For Food Invade Russian Town, Terrifying Residents

Eloise Marshall
February 13, 2019

In 2016, five Russian scientists were besieged by polar bears for almost two weeks at a remote weather station on Troynoy Island, east of Novaya Zemlya.

The remote settlement which has a population of around 3,000 people, has appealed for assistance to tackle "a mass invasion of polar bears into inhabited areas", regional authorities said in a statement. Instead they've offered to send a commission to investigate the situation but have not ruled out a cull.

Conservation authorities turned down a request from the settlement to shoot the bears, which are protected in Russian Federation as an endangered species.

The archipelago's main settlement of Belushya Guba has reported a total of 52 bears and between six and 10 on its territory at most times. As sea ice diminishes, polar bear feeding grounds decline, meaning the wild predators may seek out food elsewhere - like human garbage dumps.

Residents are barred from hunting the animals, which are classified as a vulnerable species because of the "ongoing and potential loss of their sea ice habitat resulting from climate change", according to the World Wildlife Fund.

"People are scared. They are frightened to leave homes, and their daily routines are broken", Minayev said. "The bear is a curious animal, and it will smell the human food", Mordvintsev said.

Russia Polar Bear Invasion
An image taken from the video of a mother polar polar bear and two cubs

Warning of the "mass invasion of polar bears in residential areas", local officials vowed action in response to "numerous oral and written complaints demanding to ensure safety in the settlement".

Speaking of the emergency declared in the town, Novaya Zemlya head Zhigansha Musin told TASS that the plan will stay in place until it is known that the locals are safe. "I've been on Novaya Zemlya since 1983", local administration head Vigansha Musin told The Siberian Times. "They are literally chasing people and going into the entranceways of housing buildings".

"The polar bear is the owner of the archipelago!" one resident posted on Instagram. Attempts to scare the hungry bears away with vehicle patrols and dogs have failed.

The federal environmental resources agency has refused to issue licences to shoot the most aggressive bears.

The government made a decision to send specialists on the islands after officials in the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, with a population of about 3,000 people, sought help.

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