Polar bears ‘invade’ buildings in Russian Arctic town, prompt state of emergency

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The bears prefer ice but also use islands and shorelines to move about the Arctic.

An Arctic region of Russian Federation has declared a state of emergency over a polar bear "invasion" which has left people "afraid to go outside".

"People are scared, afraid to leave the house, their daily activities are disrupted, parents are afraid to let their children go to schools", Alexander Minaev, deputy head of the local administration, said in a translated press release.

There are consistently between five to 10 polar bears in the town. It's not uncommon to see polar bears near the area's southern coasts, where they regularly converge in winter for seasonal seal hunts, according to Russia's state-run news site TASS.

'There are cases of aggressive behaviour of wild animals - attacks on people, penetration into residential and office buildings.

The worrying migration of bears began late a year ago 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.

That has left 52 bears free to cluster around Belushya Guba, according to a statement from the Arkhangelsk regional government, which oversees the archipelago. The appended video shows the bears at the dump and in town.

"With Arctic sea ice diminishing as a result of climate change, polar bears are forced to change their hunting habits and spend more time on land looking for food", a BBC reporter wrote, "which potentially puts them in conflict with humans". The sea ice shifts often and is affected by a range of factors.

With the animals encircling the village, authorities have taken a number of safety measures, such as securing a local school with fencing, while military personnel are traveling to their posts at a nearby base in "special vehicles". "The bear is a curious animal, and it will smell the human food", Mordvintsev said.

Another local official, Zhigansha Musin, said he has has been on the island since 1983 and never seen such a large influx of the beasts. "This is an anthropogenic problem".

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