Residents of Novaya Zemlya, a remote arctic region in Russia, are locking themselves indoors as displaced polar bears from up north move into populated areas. The polar bear invasion has become so serious that local authorities are declaring a state of emergency until the problem is fixed, ABC News reports.
In and around Belushya Guba, the main settlement on the 3000-population archipelago, at least 52 polar bears have been reported this winter. While most remain on the outskirts of town, six to 10 are in the village at any given time, scrounging through garbage, walking into buildings, and even acting aggressively toward people who cross their path.
People in Novaya Zemlya have used sirens, car horns, and dogs to scare away the occasional polar bear in the past, but these bears have become desensitized to the tactics. Town officials have resorted to building protective barriers around schools and providing transportation for students and workers going to and from their homes. Other residents refuse to let their children go outside. Polar bears are an endangered species in Russia, so killing them is illegal, but authorities may be forced to do so if there's no other way to eradicate them from the village.
The reason the bears have invaded Novaya Zemlya makes them especially dangerous. Polar bears normally use arctic sea ice as a platform for stalking and hunting seals during the winter. This sea ice has diminished due to climate change, leaving many polar bears with two options: Move south in search of food, or starve. Wildlife experts warn that hungry, desperate polar bears will continue to be a problem for people living in arctic regions if current climate trends continue.
[h/t ABC News]