Published: Mon, February 11, 2019

Russian islands declare emergency over polar bear `invasion`

Russian islands declare emergency over polar bear `invasion`

"They have literally been chasing people", Zhigansha Musin, the head of the local administration, told Guardian.

Authorities in Russia's remote Arctic archipelago of Novaya Zemlya have taken measures to chase away a band of polar bears that had established a reign of terror over locals in recent days.

The influx of polar bears has steadily climbed as the affects of climate change drive the large predators further inland to seek food as the Arctic ice melts depriving them of rich hunting grounds.

Polar bears are classified as an endangered species in Russian Federation and shooting them is prohibited by law.

The worrying migration of bears began late past year when the animals started to flock to the settlements of Novaya Zemlya en masse, seeking food at local dumps and harassing residents and their pets.

"I've been on Novaya Zemlya since 1983 and there's never been such a mass invasion of polar bears", he told regional officials.

Alexander Minayev, the region's deputy head, added: "People are scared, and afraid to leave their homes".

Photos and videos on social media showed polar bears entering apartment blocks and other living quarters and rummaging through garbage in the settlement of 3,000.

Extra fences have been installed around kindergartens to better ensure children's safety, and military personnel are being "delivered to workplaces by special vehicles, while the area is patrolled", according to Russian state news agency TASS. However, the authorities decided not to shoot the predators, even most aggressive ones. A group of specialists is going to be sent to the archipelago to assess the situation and make further decisions.

The Arkhangelsk regional authorities, which oversee Novaya Zemlya, said that if all else failed "shooting the animals could be the only possible forced measure".

The accumulation of polar bears around human settlements has been observed since December.

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