Quantcast

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

Animals
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.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

People crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on July 20, 2017 in New York City sought to shield themselves from the sun as the temperature reached 93 degrees. Drew Angerer / Getty Images

by Jordan Davidson

Taking action to stop the mercury from rising is a matter of life and death in the U.S., according to a new study published in the journal Science Advances.

Read More Show Less
Salmon fry before being released just outside San Francisco Bay. Jim Wilson / The New York Times / Redux

By Alisa Opar

For Chinook salmon, the urge to return home and spawn isn't just strong — it's imperative. And for the first time in more than 65 years, at least 23 fish that migrated as juveniles from California's San Joaquin River and into the Pacific Ocean have heeded that call and returned as adults during the annual spring run.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
AnnaPustynnikova / iStock / Getty Images

By Kerri-Ann Jennings, MS, RD

Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most popular mushrooms worldwide.

Read More Show Less
Protesters hold a banner and a placard while blocking off the road during a protest against Air pollution in London. Ryan Ashcroft / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Dozens of students, parents, teachers and professionals joined a Friday protest organized by Extinction Rebellion that temporarily stalled morning rush-hour traffic in London's southeasten borough of Lewisham to push politicians to more boldly address dangerous air pollution across the city.

Read More Show Less

Jose A. Bernat Bacete / Moment / Getty Images

By Bridget Shirvell

On a farm in upstate New York, a cheese brand is turning millions of pounds of food scraps into electricity needed to power its on-site businesses. Founded by eight families, each with their own dairy farms, Craigs Creamery doesn't just produce various types of cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss and Muenster cheeses, sold in chunks, slices, shreds and snack bars; they're also committed to becoming a zero-waste operation.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Coal ash has contaminated the Vermilion River in Illinois. Eco-Justice Collaborative / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Jessica A. Knoblauch

Summers in the Midwest are great for outdoor activities like growing your garden or cooling off in one of the area's many lakes and streams. But some waters aren't as clean as they should be.

That's in part because coal companies have long buried toxic waste known as coal ash near many of the Midwest's iconic waterways, including Lake Michigan. Though coal ash dumps can leak harmful chemicals like arsenic and cadmium into nearby waters, regulators have done little to address these toxic sites. As a result, the Midwest is now littered with coal ash dumps, with Illinois containing the most leaking sites in the country.

Read More Show Less

picture-alliance / AP Photo / NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center

The Group of 20 major economies agreed a deal to reduce marine pollution at a meeting of their environment ministers on Sunday in Karuizawa, Japan.

Read More Show Less
Pope Francis holds his General Weekly Audience in St. Peter's Square on Aug. 29, 2018 in Vatican City, Vatican. Giulio Origlia / Getty Images

Pope Francis declared a climate emergency Friday as he met with oil industry executives and some of their biggest investors to urge them to act on the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less