Polar bears are recognised as an endangered species in Russia and hunting them is banned
11 February, 2019, 18:52
A remote Russian Arctic archipelago has declared a state of emergency over an "invasion" by more than 50 polar bears, confining numerous 3,000 inhabitants to their homes.
Since December 52 polar bears have regularly visited the archipelago's main settlement, Belushya Guba, with some displaying "aggressive behaviour".
"People are scared, afraid to leave the house, their daily activities are disrupted, parents are afraid to let their children go to schools", Alexander Minaev, deputy head of the local administration, said in a translated press release.
Estimates put the worldwide population of polar bears at 26,000.
The bears had no fear of signals used to scare them off as well as of patrol cars and dogs.
Authorities on February 9 said incidents have been reported in Novaya Zemlya towns of bears attacking people and entering residential and government buildings.
Photos and videos on social media showed polar bears entering apartment blocks and other living quarters and rummaging through garbage in the settlement of 3,000.
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"Global warming is melting the ice so it has a chain reaction on how polar bears can survive", Liz Greengrass, a director at United Kingdom animal conservation charity Born Free Foundation told CNN in 2018.
Local administration head Vigansha Musin was reported by the British news outlet as saying that the local military garrison, where air and air defense forces are based, has had over five bears come onto the base.
Despite the siege, residents have been warned they face prosecution is they shoot the endangered species.
While Russia considers them endangered and their hunting is banned, the animals have been increasingly causing trouble to thousands of people.
Despite the growing threat from polar bear aggression, the country's environmental watchdog has ruled against using firepower to bring the situation under control. Moscow has said it is sending a team of investigators to asses the situation.
Though attacks on humans are rare, according to the conservation group Polar Bears International, they're expected to increase as more sea ice melts and the animals spend more time ashore.
"I have been in Novaya Zemlya since 1983, but there has never been so many polar bears in the vicinity", local leader Zhigansha Musin said.