Russian Arctic archipelago sounds alarm over aggressive polar bears

Hamish the polar bear and his mother Victoria walk in the Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig Scotland

Hamish the polar bear and his mother Victoria walk in the Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig Scotland

Lots of polar bears have been spotted in a remote part of Russian Federation called the Novaya Zemlya islands, home to a few thousand people. "A total of 50 polar bears are near the human settlements so we have loads of work ahead".

"People are scared. They are frightened to leave homes, and their daily routines are broken", Minayev said.

There are reports that the bears are facing a cull, despite polar bears being listed as a threatened species - the worldwide population is estimated at 26,000. But the hunting is barred on the Russian island chain of Novaya Zemlya, which includes Belushya Guba, a restricted military zone with several small settlements adjacent to bases but no native inhabitants.

The head of the local administration Zhigansha Musin said that the numbers of polar bears were unprecedented.

It is thought that rising global temperatures have contributed to a reduction in the size of the polar bears' sea-ice habitats, forcing them onto land for longer periods of time.

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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. "Parents are afraid to let the children go to school or kindergarten".

Since December 52 polar bears have regularly visited the archipelago's main settlement, Belushya Guba, with some displaying "aggressive behaviour".

"I've been on Novaya Zemlya since 1983 and there's never been such a mass invasion of polar bears", he told regional officials. Photos and videos posted over the weekend show the bears traipsing through empty schoolyards and even infiltrating the corridors of office buildings in search of food.

Local officials complained that measures to scare off polar bears such as vehicle and dog patrols have not been effective as polar bears feel secure and no longer react.

In January, a defence ministry official said that hundreds of disused military buildings had been demolished on Novaya Zemlya because polar bears were settling inside them.

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