Polar bear invasion prompts emergency on Russian islands

Polar bears have moved into residential areas of a village off Russia’s northeastern arctic coast — prompting a state of emergency.

The archipelago Novaya Zemlya, an area once used for nuclear testing, has seen at least 50 polar bears from December 2018 until February 2019, according to TASS Russian News Agency.

An “emergency situation” was declared on Saturday after the animals were reportedly aggressive and started to enter residential buildings and offices.

"Residents, schools and kindergartens are submitting numerous oral and written complaints demanding to ensure safety in the settlement. The people are scared,” the Novaya Zemlya’s deputy head, Alexander Minayev, said in statement.

“They are frightened to leave homes and their daily routines are broken. Parents are afraid to let the children go to school or kindergarten.”

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Polar bears struggling due to melting ice
Canada, Manitoba, Churchill, Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) standing on melting sea ice in Hudson Bay on summer evening. (Photo by Paul Souders via Getty Images)
Canada, Nunavut Territory, Repulse Bay,Underwater view of Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) swimming near Harbour Islands in Hudson Bay (Photo by Paul Souders via Getty Images)
Polar bear on a wide surface of ice in the russian arctic close to Franz Josef Land. (Photo by Sepp Friedhuber via Getty Images)
Canada, Manitoba, Churchill, Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) swimming in Hudson Bay on summer evening (Photo by Paul Souders via Getty Images)
A Polar Bear leaps between two ice floes on the Arctic Ocean, north of the Svalbard archipelago. Full body shot with reflection, sunny and fine weather. (Photo by Richard Sidey via Getty Images)
Polar bears on August 13, 2015 in Murmansk region, Russia. (Photo by Alexander Petrosyan/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images)
A polar bear (Ursus maritimus) on the pack ice north of Svalbard, Norway. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is walking over the pack ice north of Svalbard, Norway. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A polar bear enjoying a midnight swim in Smeerenburgfjorden, Svalbard. With ice in the polar regions disappearing at record speed this hunting polar bear is literally taking a leap of faith jumping between two ice caps. The amazing picture was taken by American wildlife photographer Rebcecca Jackrel during a 22-day sailing expedition to capture the bears in their natural environment. The photographer, from San Francisco, travelled to the islands of Spitsbergen and Nordaustlandet in the independent archipelago of Svalbard to stake out her subjects. There she spent three weeks in a tiny boat watching more than twenty different bears go about their daily routine of hunting from the ocean. (Photo by Rebecca Jackrel/Barcroft Media/Getty Images)
Norway, Svalbard islands, Woodfjord, Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) on iceberg (Photo by DEA / C. SAPPA/De Agostini/Getty Images)

Residents are not only scared, they are unable to defend themselves.

Polar bears are not allowed to be shot, as they are considered an endangered species in Russia.

However, if danger persists, officials may consider culling — killing the animals in a large quantity.

"There has never been so many polar bears in the vicinity. I recall that over five polar bears are in the [military] garrison chasing people and entering residential buildings. However, if a cull is banned, we will have to embark on a longer and less safe way for local residents," said Zhigansha Musin, the Novaya Zemlya head, who has been living in the archipelago since 1983.

"A total of 50 polar bears are near the human settlements so we have loads of work ahead.”

The reasoning behind the polar bears’ change of location is due to melting sea ice.

“Global warming is melting the ice so it has a chain reaction on how polar bears can survive,” UK animal conservation charity director, Liz Greengrass, told CNN last year.

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