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February 20, 2019

Polar bear invasion prompts state of emergency on Russian islands — ‘The people are scared’

February 11, 2019
Polar bears are pictured in the arctic in this undated stock photo. (iStock)

Polar bears have moved into residential areas of a village off Russia’s northeastern arctic coast — prompting a state of emergency.

The archipelago Novaya Zemlya, an area once used for nuclear testing, has seen at least 50 polar bears from December 2018 until February 2019, according to TASS Russian News Agency.

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An “emergency situation” was declared on Saturday after the animals were reportedly aggressive and started to enter residential buildings and offices.

“Residents, schools and kindergartens are submitting numerous oral and written complaints demanding to ensure safety in the settlement. The people are scared,” the Novaya Zemlya’s deputy head, Alexander Minayev, said in statement.

“They are frightened to leave homes and their daily routines are broken. Parents are afraid to let the children go to school or kindergarten.”

Residents are not only scared, they are unable to defend themselves.

Polar bears are not allowed to be shot, as they are considered an endangered species in Russia.

However, if danger persists, officials may consider culling — killing the animals in a large quantity.

“There has never been so many polar bears in the vicinity. I recall that over five polar bears are in the [military] garrison chasing people and entering residential buildings. However, if a cull is banned, we will have to embark on a longer and less safe way for local residents,” said Zhigansha Musin, the Novaya Zemlya head, who has been living in the archipelago since 1983.

“A total of 50 polar bears are near the human settlements so we have loads of work ahead.”

The reasoning behind the polar bears’ change of location is due to melting sea ice.

“Global warming is melting the ice so it has a chain reaction on how polar bears can survive,” UK animal conservation charity director, Liz Greengrass, told CNN last year.

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