Quantcast

Russian Polar Bear 'Invasion' Is a Sign of Something Much Bigger

As Earth's rising temperatures shrink Arctic ice, where will polar bears go? Andreas Weith / CC BY-SA 4.0

Authorities in northern Russia's Novaya Zemlya islands declared a state of emergency this weekend after a "mass invasion" of polar bears in the settlement of Belushya Guba, the BBC reported.

Media reports and video footage show the bears eating garbage, appearing near school grounds and entering buildings and residential homes.


Officials said they've never seen anything like it.

"I have been in Novaya Zemlya since 1983, but there has never been so many polar bears in the vicinity," said Zhigansha Musin, a local administrative head, according to Russian news agency TASS.

The bears are considered an endangered species in Russia, so killing them is prohibited. But officials said that if non-lethal means cannot drive the animals away, they might have no choice but to cull them, the BBC noted.

The officials said the bears no longer fear either police patrols or the signals used to scare them away.

Bear invasion - 3 www.youtube.com

Some 52 polar bears have been counted near the settlement since December.

Local official Alexander Minayev said the bears were exhibiting "aggressive behavior," including "attacks on people and entering residential homes and public buildings," AFP reported.

"There are constantly six to 10 bears inside the settlement," he said. "People are scared, they are afraid to leave their homes ... parents are frightened to let their children go to schools and kindergartens."

This story is unfortunate all around, for the village and for the polar bears that might be killed. But the underlying threat, as The Washington Post pointed out, is clearly climate change.

In the Russian Arctic, the polar cap and permafrost is melting twice as fast compared to a decade ago due to rising global temperatures. The dwindling sea ice has forced polar bears to abandon their usual habitats and descend upon human settlements in search of food.

In a statement to TASS, researcher Ilya Mordvintsev of the Severtsev Institute of Ecology and Evolution said the bears were migrating north but stopped in Belushya Guba to find food.

"Compared to previous years, they come ashore in the southern part of the archipelago, where the ice is changing. They migrate through Novaya Zemlya heading north, where the ice is solid," the expert said. "It is migration from the south to the north. They are staying in that location [near Belushya Guba] because there is some alternative food. They could have gone past but for the food. But as there are bins with edible waste, they stop to flock."

Federal authorities in Moscow are sending a team of investigators to look into the situation, AFP reported. So far, they have refused permission to shoot the bears but they have not ruled out a cull.

Sponsored
zeljkosantrac / E+ / Getty Images

Medically reviewed by Hrefna Palsdottir, MS

Oats are considered to be one of the healthiest grains on earth. Find out why and how to incorporate this breakfast staple into your morning routine.

Read More Show Less
Youth activists ages 11-18 learn to fight plastic pollution at the inaugural Ocean Heroes Bootcamp. Ocean Heroes Bootcamp

By 2018 Ocean Heroes: Claire MacQueen (13 years old), Sabine Thomas (13) and Ava Inskeep (14)

We despise single-use plastics. We want to keep our oceans and our beaches clean. Early last year I (Claire) lived in India for several months and became curious about plastic waste, as it was much more visible in India than back home in the U.S. Seeing all the plastic waste while I was visiting helped me to understand that much of the trash produced by the U.S. actually ends up in developing countries, like India, which does not have a proper waste management system like we do at home, which causes a ton of trash to end up in waterways and the ocean.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in South Carolina on Jan. 21. Sean Rayford / Getty Images

Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders announced Tuesday that he will run for president in 2020, becoming the latest candidate in a crowded Democratic primary field to promise a Green New Deal if elected, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
Degraded coral reefs at Kahekili Beach Park in west Maui, Hawaii. Peter Swarzenski / Usgs

In a case watched closely both by polluting industries and clean water advocates across the nation, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up an appeal of a Clean Water Act case out of Hawaii concerning treated sewage flowing into the Pacific Ocean from injection wells.

Read More Show Less
A woman works at a distrubiton station at the 855,000-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island, one of the five boroughs of New York City, on Feb. 5. JOHANNES EISELE / AFP / Getty Images

Amazon will strive to cut carbon emissions from its shipments in half by 2030, the e-commerce giant said Monday. The retailer's plan calls for an increase in the use of electric delivery vehicles and renewable energy as well as pressuring suppliers to use less packaging.

Read More Show Less