Polar bears are moving into an Arctic town and terrorizing people into staying in their homes.
The Russian archipelago of Novaya Zemlya has a population of around 3,000 people. Officials declared a state of emergency after at least 50 polar bears set up a home near the town in December and started feeding at the local garbage dump.
There are consistently between five to 10 polar bears in the town.
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A statement from the town of Belushya Guba on Saturday called the polar bears a “mass invasion,” and said there were cases of “aggression” in which bears have attacked people.
“People are scared, and afraid to leave their homes. Parents are unwilling to let their children go to school or nursery,” officials said in a statement.
Extra fences have been erected around schools, and workers are being taken to sites on territory patrols.
The bears have even invaded office buildings and homes.
“The polar bear is the owner of the archipelago!” one resident posted on Instagram. “Can peek without invitation!”
There hasn’t been a recorded incident of this many polar bears in the region before.
“I have been in Novaya Zemlya since 1983, but there has never been so many polar bears in the vicinity,” Zhigansha Musin, head of Novaya Zemlya, told Russian news agency Tass.
Town officials have used loud noises like shooting off guns and car horns, as well as packs of dogs, to try and scare the bears, the Siberian Times reported.
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But Russians aren’t allowed to hunt the animals, since they’re a protected species.
The Federal Service for Supervision of Nature Management refused to grant permission to kill the beasts. Instead, a task force was sent to the region to assess the situation.
But the statement from the town says if there is no way to scare the bears away, killing them will be a last resort.
Scientists in Russia said thinning sea ice could be an explanation for the invasion.
“We’ve seen definite trends in certain parts of the Arctic where polar bears are congregating we have not seen before,“ Elizabeth Kruger of the World Wildlife Foundation told NBC News.
“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,” Ilya Mordvintsev, a lead researcher at the Severtsev Institute of Ecology and Evolution, told TASS.
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