Novaya Zemlya, a remote archipelago in the Arctic region is having a serious polar bear problem. According to local authorities and reported by ABC News, polar bears have been gathering in jaw-dropping numbers since December, and it’s safe to say they aren’t on the hunt for Coca-Cola.
Most recently, 52 bears have been spotted close the Belushya Guba — the archipelago’s main population center — and at least 6-10 bears have a constant presence inside the village. Considering one polar bear in close proximity sounds like a recipe for disaster, the idea of 6-10 wandering around in a tiny Russian village sounds like an absolute nightmare.
Head of Novaya Zemlya’s administration, Zhiganshi Musin told Russian news agency TASS “They are literally chasing people and going into the entranceways of housing buildings.” That. Sounds. Terrifying. The usual methods of scaring away polar bears like the use of dogs, police sirens, and car horns just aren’t working anymore as the bears have become accustomed to these sounds.
This is due in no small part to the shrinking of Arctic sea ice, which polar bears rely on for hunting. Because the bears don’t have enough ice to hunt, they’re venturing further south from their normal hunting grounds into human settlements.
To remedy the situation, anti-bear patrols are being implemented and special barriers are being erected around schools, with additional transport being provided for children and workers. As of now, a team of specialists is being flown into Novaya Zemlya to help deal with the problem. Since polar bears are classified as an endangered species in Russia, shooting them is illegal, but environmental officials have warned that it may be necessary if all other efforts fail.
Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that for the polar bear’s sake. Though we imagine this is a problem that is only going to get worse as Arctic sea ice continues to melt at a rapid pace.