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

Individual standing in Hurricane Harvey flooding and damage. Jill Carlson / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Allegra Kirkland, Jeremy Deaton, Molly Taft, Mina Lee and Josh Landis

Climate change is already here. It's not something that can simply be ignored by cable news or dismissed by sitting U.S. senators in a Twitter joke. Nor is it a fantastical scenario like The Day After Tomorrow or 2012 that starts with a single crack in the Arctic ice shelf or earthquake tearing through Los Angeles, and results, a few weeks or years later, in the end of life on Earth as we know it.

Read More Show Less
A pregnant woman works out in front of the skyline of London. SHansche / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Air pollution particles that a pregnant woman inhales have the potential to travel through the lungs and breach the fetal side of the placenta, indicating that unborn babies are exposed to black carbon from motor vehicles and fuel burning, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Teen activist Greta Thunberg delivered a talking-to to members of Congress Tuesday during a meeting of the Senate Climate Change Task Force after politicians praised her and other youth activists for their efforts and asked their advice on how to fight climate change.

Read More Show Less
Ten feet of water flooded 20 percent of this Minot, North Dakota neighborhood in June 2011. DVIDSHUB / CC BY 2.0

By Jared Brey

When Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida panhandle last October, it killed at least 43 people, caused an estimated $25 billion in damage and destroyed thousands of homes.

Read More Show Less
A protestor holds up her hand covered with fake oil during a demonstration on the U.C. Berkeley campus in May 2010. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The University of California system will dump all of its investments from fossil fuels, as the Associated Press reported. The university system controls over $84 billion between its pension fund and its endowment. However, the announcement about its investments is not aimed to please activists.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Forest fire continues to blaze in Indonesesia on Sept. 18. WAHYUDI / AFP / Getty Images

Nearly 200 people have been arrested in Indonesia over their possible connections to the massive wildfires raging in the nation's forest, officials said this week.

Read More Show Less

By Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

World leaders have a formidable task: setting a course to save our future. The extreme weather made more frequent and severe by climate change is here. This spring, devastating cyclones impacted 3 million people in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Record heatwaves are hitting Europe and other regions — this July was the hottest month in modern record globally. Much of India is again suffering severe drought.

Read More Show Less
Covering Climate Now / YouTube screenshot

By Mark Hertsgaard

The United Nations Secretary General says that he is counting on public pressure to compel governments to take much stronger action against what he calls the climate change "emergency."

Read More Show Less