Nearly 60 polar bears have been stranded on the Arctic coast near a remote village in Russia’s Far East after warm winter weather hampered their hunting routine.
Locals have counted at least 56 bears who arrived at the outskirts of the village of Ryrkaypiy earlier this week, the World Wildlife Fund said in a statement on Thursday.
A video released by the WWF showed the polar bears roaming the snowy shore around the carcasses of dead seals.
Locals in the village, population 600, are not surprised by an occasional polar bear visit but the size of the bear party this time is unusual, the fund said.
Recent years have seen an increasing number of reports of polar bears wandering into villages in Russia’s Arctic, mainly due to the melting of the ice where bears would typically hunt seals.
The Chukotka district government said in a statement on Friday that “the situation with polar bears is under control” after the local community centre had to cancel all public events including musical rehearsals for safety reasons. Children are now bussed to the school.
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Environmentalists blamed global warming for the bear visit.
“If the ice was thick enough, the polar bears or at least some of them, would have gone out into the sea where they could hunt for seals,” Mikhail Stishov, WWF Russia’s coordinator for biodiversity in the Arctic, said in a statement. “For the time being, they’ll have to search for food by the shore.”
Police officers, border guards and volunteers have now been dispatched to monitor the bears and make sure they do not approach the residential area. The local government said on Friday that it expects the bears to leave as soon as the ice is thick enough to walk on.